A Study in Portraits – da Vinci and Van Gogh
Two of the greatest artists of all time would have to be Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) and Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Da Vinci was an artistic genius, as well as an ingenious inventor and scientist, while Van Gogh was an artistic savant whose mental instability cut short a career of wonder and enlightenment. Both artists presented works that made people look both outside at the artwork itself as well as inside the individual viewer in order to interpret the work. Ultimately, it was their work in the style of portraiture that we can link the two artists. Da Vinci was one of the first artists of the Renaissance to use the three-quarter view as a pose for his subjects. This allowed the subject to look directly into the viewer’s eye, which was by design, as Leonardo himself was quoted as saying, “The eye is said to be the window of the soul” (Broude and Garrard, 59). Van Gogh, in contrast, was able to use the art of the portrait to help assuage his mental instability and provide himself with an outlet for his skills when he was unable to work outdoors. His temperament was such that he was content during fair weather, able to work outside on paintings and sketches but it was during times of poor weather that he was most disagreeable. Ultimately, it was during the winter of 1888 that his instability struck its most infamous note when on December 23rd, after a reported argument with his dear friend and contemporary, Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh sliced off part of his left ear with a razor. Van Gogh is well known for his usage of colors and shades to bring out a feeling of emotion and meaning within his paintings. One of his earlier projects, The Potato Eaters (1885), foretold his depth of understanding and ability. With this painting, Van Gogh shows an innate understanding of the usage of shadows to bring about the feeling that the subjects are genuine. As he continued in his short career, he only...
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