Van Gogh vs. Margaret Olley: Comparative Analysis

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Comparative Essay of Van Gogh and Margaret Olley

(Image 1) Olley’s Poppies and checkered cloth

(Image 2) Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

(Image 3) Van Gogh’s Vine Yards

Margaret Olley and Van Gogh are two of the most well-known impressionists of their time. With more than a century between their eras, they both played significant roles in the progressing development of art today. Similarly painting still life’s and portraits, they also used the same media types and painted what they were surrounded by. For example, rooms of the houses they lived in, flowers and places they travelled. This comparative essay will compare and outline these two famous artists and the similarities between two of their most famous paintings, Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers,’ (Image 1), and Olley’s ‘Poppies and Checked Cloth,’ (Image 2). Overall, this essay will support the statement that Margaret Olley and Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings are similar from the subjects, to the use of media and impressionistic style of the paintings. Margaret Olley and Vincent Van Gogh were both born on opposite sides of the world, Olley being born in Lismore, Australia and Van Gogh in Zundert, Holland. However, the similarity between their artistic techniques and expression is both stylistic and with much expression. They both painted objects around them that were important to their life at the time. Both studying in Paris, their lives as artists was loved and their paintings showed their biographies. Van Gogh’s life as an artist started at the age of twenty-seven and lasted ten years after he committed suicide. He spent much of his time in an asylum, where he painted ‘the bedroom, ‘his work reflecting the intense colours and strong light of the countryside around him. At one stage of his later life, Van Gogh averaged a painting a day for two months. Margaret Olley also painted many artworks in her life, often a few at the time, having each in a separate room when she painted still life’s. They both founded young artists, liking the idea of helping their community. Olley, being more financially stable was able to contribute more to the foundations and well recognised than Van Gogh. They both experienced traumatic incidents which were expressed through their paintings. Van Gough and Olley experienced harsh living conditions for their time, Van Gough living in poverty and mentally unstable, and Olley living through the depression during world war two as a young child. However, interestingly they both experienced some form of depression. Olley was influenced by the culture of the art world to take up alcohol which unnoticeably became an addiction. Their mental state left them both insecure and therefore affecting the expression displayed in their artworks. Olley dealt with her addiction in a positive way, giving it up because of an illness, to celebrate her life and love of painting. She went on to achieve awards such as the Order of Australia, Honourable doctorate of Literature, Macquarie Uni, 1991, Life Governor, the art gallery of NSW, 1992 and companion of the order of Australia, 1996.

Like Van Gogh, Olley didn’t sell many of her admired paintings however, Van Gogh was restricted as he couldn’t get people to buy them, not being recognised in his life. Many of Olley’s works were generously donated to the Art Gallery of NSW and had at least one exhibition per year since 1948. She was surrounded by many friends, most of which were fellow artists. Van Gogh sold one painting during his lifetime, most famously known as ‘The Vine Yards,’ (Image 3). Two similar paintings created by Olley and Van Gogh will be analysed, discussed and compared. These are famously known as “Sunflowers” (Image 2) by Van Gogh (Oil on canvas) and “Poppies with Checkered Cloth,” (Image 1) by Margaret Olley (Oil on cardboard). These paintings of the same media are typically of similar impressionistic style and related subject, bright and cheerful flowers. There are...
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