Vincent Van Gogh painted for 10 years between 1880 and his death in 1890. During that time he managed to sell one painting. Since his death, his work has gone on to define 19th-century post-Impressionism, and his paintings are now some of the most expensive in the world.
Van Gogh began as a "gravy painter," heavily influenced by the Dutch school and creating scenes and landscapes in a dark palette. Under the influence of the Impressionists, and in an attempt to sell more of his paintings to a Parisian public that wanted color and excitement, he began lightening his palette and painting in the style for which he is known today. Van Gogh absorbed the techniques, style and colors of such Impressionist luminaries as Claude Monet and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Although he associated with the Impressionists and learned a great deal from their art, Van Gogh himself has never been identified as an Impressionist. Some refer to him as a "post-Impressionist" because of his use of that school's techniques to different ends. While the Impressionists explored the effects of light on surfaces in an aesthetic and somewhat detached way, Van Gogh applied these techniques to create works of deep expressiveness that reflected his tormented experience of life. In Van Gogh's work, the pointillism made famous by Seurat begins to spin and twist, and formerly concrete trees and clouds become spirals of uncertainty.
Although Van Gogh never achieved recognition or success during his lifetime, his work had a tremendous impact on the art world and the general public throughout the 20th century. The Fauves, German Expressionists and Abstract Expressionists all borrowed elements of Van Gogh's painting technique and philosophy and applied them to their own ends. Van Gogh's application of modernist techniques to his own emotional expression, as well as his distortion of objective perspective in his paintings, were in keeping with the movements of his time and were accepted by many later artists.
Van Gogh's thick and fierce application of paint to the canvas is one of the signature characteristics of his art. Rather than creating imagery through carefully applied and smoothed-out colors, Van Gogh actually constructed paintings out of paint, with the swirls sometimes extending out from the canvas in sharp relief. This technique, combined with his use of vibrant yellows, golds and greens, created work that was unique for its time.
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