Vincent van Gogh (b. 1853) Cypresses, 1889
Another thrilling article for our Art History buffs written by Sebastian Smee for the Washington Post. Since we cannot open the article without a VPN in China, I have included excerpts here.
In the summer of 1889, Vincent van Gogh painted “Cypresses,” which may just be his masterpiece. He had painted “The Starry Night,” a relatively flat and cartoonish work, only a week or two earlier. In one of his marvelous, chatty, tender and hectoring letters, he promised his brother Theo that he was taking precautions to avoid a relapse of the breakdown that had led to him, six months earlier, to sever his ear and present it to a local prostitute.
The whole canvas — the sky, the clouds, the atmosphere itself — seems to vibrate in response to the cypresses’ life force, evoking all the ways in which the natural world is interconnected. “Starry Night,” for all its charm, is like a diagram of this notion, or an illustration. It feels akin to an explanation, whereas “Cypresses” is an exclamation, a blurt, a barbaric yawp. It doesn’t just illustrate, it enacts Van Gogh’s special apprehension of nature’s reverberating oneness.
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