La Berceuse (Woman Rocking
Pellicot Roulin, 1851-1930), 1889.
Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853-1890). Oil on canvas. The Walter H. And Leonore Annenberg Collection,
Partial Gift of Walter H. And Leonore Annenberg, 1996
The world of art is diverse and rich coming together for appreciation overcoming all cultural barriers. The story of Van Gogh and his astounding genius while creating canvases has captivated the interest and attention of millions around the world. Even when people cannot afford art they appreciated the creativity and charm that each of his pictures brings forth. Each of his strokes has a life of its own and the lifelike creation gives an illusion of perfection that is hard to imitate.
The Metropolitan Museum boasts one of his best creative efforts done late in his artistic life. Very near the time of his breakdown at Arles.
La Berceuse or a Woman Rocking a Cradle as it is commonly known as was painted around 1889 and suggests the intensity of his emotions when drawing.
Van Gogh was a master painter whose impact on both Impressionism and Expressionism cannot be undermined. As an Impressionist he made use of dark motifs and bright colors that gave his pictures a distinct style as can be seen in "La Berceuse (Woman Rocking a Cradle)," picture that has proven elusive. Yet, the Expressionism style can be seen in the turbulent emotions so obvious in every stroke.
In La Berceuse we see a woman sitting in a chair with a forbidding expression on her face. She is wearing a dress that is outlined in dark tones. The green hues contrast with the red brown carpet and do not allow a very soothing integration of colors. The wall paper that can be seen in the background further grates on the eye as we see another shade of green with white flowers seeming to float around. Van Gogh has drawn a picture where the colors have been used to strike the viewer's eye. No one seeing the dark colors can ignore La Berceuse and the obvious clash in colors. These are anything but calming suggest that the painter was not in his right frame of mind when he was painting it, rather we can say that his anguish is made clear in his choice of canvas.
The expression on the face of the model is neither happy nor sad, rather the features are so benign and the yellow hue used to paint it so sallow that the face is ignored when being seen for the first time. It is the form of the body that captures the attention. The obese look and the seemingly un-contoured physical attributes make the woman seem asexual and create a canvas that is more an object of technique than one of admiration.
The string lying in the woman's hand is the only object that suggests that she is moving the cradle mentioned in the title of the painting. Otherwise, no other maternal clue alters the cold stance of the woman's face. The outline given to the body and the chair on which she is sitting then suggests that the painter is not as interested in the model face as he is with her body and the action that she is perceived to be performing. This leaves the viewer mystified as they try to identify the title with the model. La Berceuse is the epitome of the Expressionist style. It shows what colors and drama can be hidden in the stroke of a brush or the choice of a color as painters hide their feelings and interpret them not through their models or depictions of reality but rather through the use of forms and colors.
With thick brush strokes and intoxicating colors, the painting has almost a three dimensional quality. His paintings reflect the tumultuousness of Van Gogh's life - a man who went from wanting to join the clergy to cutting off his ear. From early black and white paintings and bland wheat field pictures to later Japanese inspired works, gushing with color. [Hefner, 1999]
Van Gogh's approach to his work was clearly conceptual. His goal was to use painting to express emotions. In a space, which they occupied. He stated that, "painters must devote themselves entirely to the study of nature and try to produce pictures which will be an education" (Rewald 1995, 303)
Cezanne's paintings appear to have had blank elements filled in with an unobtrusive neutral color, such as gray to relive the disruptive forms. Applied skillfully, the neutral color does not adversely affect the chromatic harmony. Thus, the gray background has washes of gray in its lower registers, which appear as a benign yet alien presence, a friendly invasion.
While Van Gogh was a master of technique Paul Cezanne was a master of style. The flair he used in painting is canvasses captured the attention of many young painters and while he did not revolutionize painting he did create a new perspective giving audiences a better vision of nature. He excited painters and viewers alike as his strokes incited the attention of all. Like a musical note each stroke had its own meaning and the colors of his canvas were isolated in their perfection. Like Van Gogh he chose darker and brighter hues and yet, while the Van Gogh's canvas bespoke distress Cezanne choice of colors blended in harmony. The deepness of each color accentuates a calm that creates feelings of meditation within the viewer, which is missing in the canvas of Van Gogh. While Vang Gogh works to create an imbalance in his paintings, Cezanne does the opposite, he creates a balance that is not moderate in effect rather, controls the mind of the viewer into contemplation.
In the painting Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress he uses colors that are almost similar to the canvas of Van Gogh and yet the appeal is entirely different. While Van Gogh stirs the viewer, Cezanne complacently intrudes into the viewers mind through the variation of the colors he uses. The red dress worn by the model blends with the goldish yellow chair on which she sits and the gray background subtly fades into the background. Paul Cezanne expressed nearly all the characteristics of the experimental innovator. The visual criteria- the view of his enterprise as research, with the need for accumulation of evidence and the incremental nature of his procedure; its slowness; the repeated study of a single motif.
While La Berceuse perfected form Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress alters colors presenting a light and dark reflection that creates symmetry. The strokes of the brush that create the wrinkles on the dress and the light falling in the hands and the face suggest that the artist strove for a lightness in his canvas that was missing in La Berceuse. Cezanne varies between the dark and light colors and so creates a warmth and coldness on the canvas at the same time.
The coldness of the white face, which does not appeal to our emotions much like the expression in Van Goghs portrait, is suppressed and toned down through the warmth of the red dress.…
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