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Vincent van Gogh and Ivan Albright

Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch-Impressionist artist with enormous influence on 20th century art (Greenberg & Jordan, 2001). Born in the town of Groot- Zundert in Brabant, he was the oldest among the six children of Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Cornelia Carbentus. He did not show inclination towards art as a young child and people remembered him as a serious, eccentric, sensitive boy who loved flowers, birds and insects. From 1861 to 1864, he attended a local village school for academics and the church house for religious education.

The next four years he studied English, French, and German in a boarding school in Zevenbergen before transferring to a new high school in Tilburg. However, he had to leave the Tilburg school because of financial problems. He was taught to draw at school but none of his works showed potentiality. Between 1860 and 1880, he decided to stay in Belgium and to become an artist, to create beauty despite an unhappy personal life. In 1886, he left for Paris to join his brother Theo, a manager of Goupil’s gallery. There he met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin, started to lighten up his attitude and painted in the short brushstrokes of the Impressionists.

He was a difficult companion because of his habits of engaging in night-long discussions and day-long painting which ultimately took toll on his health. He left Paris with Gauguin to establish an art school in Arles which proved to be disastrous. Van Gogh then was ill, alternating between fits of madness and lucidity. He was sent to an asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment after he cut off a portion of his ear lobe off in a fit of epilepsy. In 1890, his conditions improved and went to live in Auvers-sur-Oise where he shot himself two months later. Throughout his brief career, he just sold one painting.

His finest works was completed in a matter of three years which included more than 2,000 pieces, including around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. Seven years after Van Gogh’s death, a magic realist Ivan Albright was born near Chicago in North Harvey, Illinois, to Adam Emory Albright and Clara Wilson Albright (Croydon, 1978). He had a twin brother named Malvin who went to The Art Institute of Chicago with him to study sculpture while he studied painting. Albright was influenced by the works of El Greco and Rembrandt but was able to develop his own style.

He attended Northwestern University but decided to shift to architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His experienced in World War 1, doing morbid medical drawings, influenced his later style. When he returned to Illinois, he began to be recognized and did his first show in 1930. His most renowned works are his self-portraits, character studies and still-lifes. He was an inexhaustible artist throughout his life, working as a painter at the same time engraver and carpenter. He made his own paints and charcoal and carved the details of his own frames.

He was a perfectionist, obsessing about lights and details to the point that he painted his studio black, and wore black clothing to cut out potential glare. He never stopped working until his last day even on his deathbed, drawing his final strokes. He died in 1983. These two painters have a tremendous impact in the world of art because of their unique skill and talent. Van Gogh’s was a pioneer of Expressionism, a reaction to positivism, naturalism and impressionism (Whiteley, 2000). It sought to express the meaning of “being alive” and emotional experience rather than physical reality.

He was innovative and radical in his unnatural colors, angles, lines, compression of three-dimensional space into two-dimensional discreet pictorial elements (like brushstroke and pattern), and particularly, his stylized distortion and exaggeration of reality, often to grotesque ends. He was looked up by all Expressionist artists as a genius whose talent was untempered by his psychological collapse. His self-portraits, specifically Self Portrait 1888 and Self-Portrait 1889, evoke so much emotion and intensity mainly because of the dynamism of their swirling, sculptural, corrosive green backgrounds.

Artists believe that these backgrounds give his work an atmospheric solidity and distinctive corporeality. On the other hand, Ivan Albright’s works were most often distinguished for their idiosyncratic combination of elaborate detail, sumptuous color, and multiple vantage points (Grey, 1998). He was meticulous in his paintings which require years to complete. His portraits and still-lifes are created out of visions of mercilessness and romance, often suggesting narrative situations shadowed by corruption, death, and decay.

Like Van Gogh his works showed his anxiety with the ravages of time, offering unbending observations on the human condition. He used the vanitas theme ? life’s pleasures are momentary and death is inevitable. He explored ordinary things in everyday life; his paintings magnify every crease, flaw and physical imperfection. Personally, I look up to Vincent van Gogh and Ivan Albright for their unparalleled contributions to art. They revolutionized and defined the way mankind views beauty, persona, individuality and style in art.

When I saw their work in person, I was amazed how they incorporated their brighter colors and method of painting into a uniquely recognizable style. Both painters represent things of everyday life yet they are so extraordinary. They blow things out of proportion, making the real unreal.

Works Cited

Croydon, Michael. Ivan Albright . NY: Abbeville Press, 1978. Greenberg, Jan & Sandra Jordan. Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist. NY: Delacorte Press, 2001. Grey, Alex. The Mission of Art. Massachusetts: Shambhala Publishing House, 1998. Whiteley, Linda. Van Gogh: Life and Works. NY: SourceBooks, Inc. , 2000.

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