As a result of the Impressionistic revolution before them, both Cezanne and Van Gogh were freed from constraints to follow the characteristics of Impressionism that appealed to them – the use and development of colour and the structural planes for Cezanne, and the use of colour and brushstrokes for Van Gogh.
Wheat Field with Crows – 1890 – Vincent Van Gogh
Paul Cezanne, considered the father of modern art, wanted to see the world objectively, and endeavoured to present a 3 dimensional reality on a 2 dimensional plane. He “was more interested in the structural or formal aspects of painting than in its ability to convey emotions.” (Artforms, Preble, p. 363) He achieved this by reducing nature to 3D shapes – the cone, cylinder, and cube – then reducing those to slabs of colour to suggest a slice of volume, with the warm colours advancing and the cool colours receding. He also used multiple points of view on the same picture plane, to lead the viewer’s eye around the composition to perceive the volume. He created a compressed space, with the sense of the underlying structure and solidity of the subject – which was primarily still lifes, and landscapes.
Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears – 11890-93 – Oil on canvas.
In the above painting, GINGER POT WITH POMEGRANATE AND PEARS, Cezanne, after painstakingly placing the fruit to resemble a spontaneously pleasing effect, painted them using warm and cool, primary and contrasting colours in juxtaposition. Thus he created a vibrant image of advancing and receding areas in a compressed space – a cool green pear, placed in front of a warm red apple, stops the latter’s advancement, while the contrasting nature of their colours (complimentary – opposites on the colour wheel) vibrates against each other. He used orange and blue throughout the composition in the same way, and has used different viewpoints for the table and the ginger pot.
Green Futera – Braque; La Reve – Picasso 1932
“Cezanne’s open brush strokes and his concept of a geometric sub-structure in nature and art” (ibid. p. 363) led to the development, by Braque and Picasso, of Cubism. For this they rejected emotions even more than Cezanne had done, and developed the compression of space until they had created flat, ambiguous space; they manipulated viewpoints further to create a Simultaneity by viewing the subject from all points simultaneously; and they developed Cezanne’s cubic volumes into planes that formed an interwoven pattern that merged the subject with the background.
From this developed Formal Abstraction in the forms of De Stijl (The Style) with Piet Mondrian, Suprematism with Kazimir Malevich, and Constructivism with Gabo. These were the further development of colour, line and shape, devoid of aesthetic content – very precise, hard edged, impersonal, geometric, non-figurative and depending on the control of the elements of form.
Square 111 – Mondrian; White on White – Malevich; Constructed Torso – Gabo
In De Stijl, Mondrian created works using the primary colours, and vertical and horizontal lines to create balanced patterns representing purity. In the above painting, he included warm and cool whites, adding an advancing and receding element to his pattern. Malevich pushed Cezanne’s theory of advancing and receding colours to extremes painting cool white on warm white as an example of Suprematism. He also manipulated scale and position on the canvas to create space, and diagonal lines to create movement. Gabo took the ideas of the Suprematists and used them to create ‘constructed’ works of Sculpture and Collage. In his use of planes, geometric shapes, line and occasionally colour, his works show a direct link back to Cezanne’s original ideas of cubic volume, compressed space, and colour theories. Hi works were known as Constructivism.
Vincent Van Gogh was also fascinated by the use of the brilliant pure colour, straight from tubes onto white canvas on location, and allowing the brush strokes to show, that the Impressionists were encouraging. he developed these characteristics during his short life, until his works resembled swirling masses of bright paint. he worked quickly, spontaneously, emotionally, expressively – his “textural brushwork …[giving] an overall rhythmic movement to some of his paintings.” (ibid, p. 365)
Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles – 1888 – Van Gogh
He began to use colour arbitrarily, using the contrasting orange and blue together frequently, as he did in ENTRANCE TO THE PUBLIC GARDENS IN ARLES painted in 1888, two years before his death. The paint was applied thickly in pure colour, to give an intensity and light to his work, with the relatively flat area of the path showing purple and mauve layed on amongst the yellow to give shadows, and the thickness of the paint textured by his brushwork. He depicted everyday scenes, as had Daumier, preferring to paint his own direct neighbourhood; and the fields around Arles if he went into the countryside. In the above painting he used scale manipulation to give depth, but this was still compressed space due to the intensity of the background colours. His heavy brush strokes in the foliage give a feeling of movement to the work. His figures were outlined with strong contour lines, coloured in, creating flat patterns in the style of the Japanese prints that impressed him.
Woman in Purple Coat – Matisse; The Bridge – Derain; The Blue House – Vlaminck
Fauvism, with its freedom of expression and use of vibrant, often clashing colour for its own sake, developed from Van Gogh’s style. Henri Matisse, Andre Derain and Maurice De Vlaminck used colour arbitrarily, expressively rather than descriptively, using strong brush strokes and contour lines to create patterns and designs. Also as precursors of German Expressionism, were Munch and Ensor, established artists in the late 19th century, already Munch using swirling lines, Ensor using Brush strokes and texture, and both using clashing colour. From this developed Expressionism.
Autumn II – Kandinsky; Red Balloon 1922 – Klee; The Blue Horse – Marc
The Blue Rider group of German Expressionists followed: Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Franz Marc. These artists created non-figurative non-representational abstract works, with the emphasis on colour and its psychological affect on people, and its link to music. Kandinsky created Abstract Expressionism using colour and line furiously. The Bridge group of German Expressionists endeavoured to bring their German origins out in their work, but really bridged the gap between all the art occurring in Europe at the time. They used broad flat areas of colour, and colour for symbolic content.
Thus from Cezanne developed Cubism, De Stijl, Suprematism, and Constructivism – Formal Abstraction; while from Van Gogh developed Fauvism, German Expressionism (Precursors, the Blue Rider, and The Bridge), and Abstract Expressionism.
ARTFORMS. Preble. Harper & Row, Publishers. 4th Edition (1989)
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(C) Jud House 6/09/2016
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