The Loner and the Human Form Obsessive; Richard Edmonds Takes a Look at Two Excellent Books Exploring the Different Paths of Vincent Van Gogh and the German Modernist Gustav Klimt

The Birmingham Post (England), January 10, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Loner and the Human Form Obsessive; Richard Edmonds Takes a Look at Two Excellent Books Exploring the Different Paths of Vincent Van Gogh and the German Modernist Gustav Klimt


Becoming Van Gogh Timothy Standring and Louis van Tilborgh (Yale, PS35) Gustav Klimt - the Drawings Marian Bisanz-Prakkan (Hirmer, PS45) he career paths of both Vincent Van Gogh and Gustav Klimt were anything but typical.

TVan Gogh was deep in the learning process of fine art, almost to the day he died, and Klimt was busy breaking away from the rigorous formalities of the German fine art tradition moving into some of the loveliest Modernist paintings ever to come out of the early 20th century, although the same could as well be said of Van Gogh.

Yet here was a man who went his own way completely in comparison with Klimt, who was an artist working with like-minded contemporaries in pre-First World War Vienna, and as likely to be designing fabrics, books, buildings or wallpaper in the off-moments when he wasn't making masterpieces.

Although Van Gogh was interested in the nude and figure drawing, the difference between the two painters is simple. Vincent was introverted, a loner and a man with a richly internalised rationale, while Klimt reached always to the human form as a hymn to nudity.

In the exquisite graphite and charcoal drawings shown in Bisanz-Prakken's study of the artist, you realise that for Klimt, the human body in all its forms, as lover, as pregnant mother, or as merely as itself, is a form of erotic expression, that was a serious strand in an early 20th century society where dirty photographs were openly on sale in European cities and where the newsagents' soft-porn racks of our time had not yet been envisaged.

Embracing study for Entire World, In time, Klimt and Freud would relate their drawings and sexual psychology in a comparative sense to the "voyage interieur", the land where Freud felt psychoses are born. Becoming Van Gogh is a richly handsome book, beautifully bound and a pleasure to read, and it tells us how this tormented artist was deeply affected by the work of other artists, showing how he incorporated elements of their styles and techniques into paintings that became in due course, uniquely his own.

The book features essays exploring how Van Gogh imbued his early work with the passionate energy of a beginner, as he strove to master the art of drawing using graphite pencil, inks and washes to heighten the detail of a country road, perhaps, which leads the eye away into a welljudged perspective with vanishing houses and telegraph poles. Some of the art work was created along the sea coasts at Scheveningen, in carefully-judged light at the fall of day.

These early drawings have an ease and inspirational force that holds the eye captive - many being created as Van Gogh roamed the European coasts in the mid-1880s.

Couple, 1901, Kiss to the Gustav Klimt -.

It is fascinating to compare the harsh sea coasts and village paintings of the 1882 period with a full-fledged Van Gogh study in oils of a picture he called River Bank in Springtime, which appeared five years later. …

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The Loner and the Human Form Obsessive; Richard Edmonds Takes a Look at Two Excellent Books Exploring the Different Paths of Vincent Van Gogh and the German Modernist Gustav Klimt
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