Van Gogh and Gauguin: Electric Arguments and Utopian Dreams

By Bradley Collins | Go to book overview

— 3 —
Van Gogh in Paris
and First Encounters
with Gauguin

I

It is easy to regard Vincent's years in Paris as merely a prelude to Arles. Everything begun in Paris becomes more dramatic in the South. Bright colors turn blindingly radiant, and subtle contrasts polarize into sonorous clashes. Vincent's life becomes equally heightened as he paints more, carouses more, and behaves more violently. Yet to see the Paris period in this way obscures Vincent's great artistic strides. Even an expert might mistake a painting from 1881 with one from 1885, but no one would confuse a still life or landscape from 1887 with a pre-Paris work. The most obvious reason for this is Vincent's rejection of loamy Milletesque earth tones for a lighter and more vivid palette. But the Paris period also witnessed dramatic changes in his paint handling and his compositions. In two years he not only assimilated the most advanced art in Europe but began pushing it in new directions.

This is all the more remarkable given Vincent's nearly total ignorance up to this point of avant-garde developments. As he wrote to his sister, Wil, he initially reacted to Impressionism with surprise and hostility:

-65-

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Van Gogh and Gauguin: Electric Arguments and Utopian Dreams
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Van Gogh 1
  • 2 - Gauguin 39
  • 3 - Van Gogh in Paris and First Encounters with Gauguin 65
  • 4 - Jean Valjean and the Buddhist Monk 85
  • 5 - Electric Arguments 129
  • 6 - Aftermath 193
  • Chronology 233
  • Notes 237
  • Selected Bibliography 253
  • Index 257
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