In 1886 Vincent arrived in the French capital and … vive la différence!
Theo introduced him to the Impressionists’ work and Vincent had an epiphany. The lights had been turned on in his eyes and suddenly he saw colour. And lots of it.
He wrote to a friend, saying that he was ‘seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet, seeking the broken and neutral tones to harmonize brutal extremes. Trying to render intense colour and not grey harmony.’
He was up and running. Vincent practised the Impressionist skill of the spontaneous brushstroke, had his first dabblings with impasto painting (a technique where paint is applied so thickly to the canvas that it stands proud, resulting in a three-dimensional effect), and found that his love of Japanese woodblock prints, first developed in Antwerp, was shared by almost all avant-garde artists in Paris.
It was all too much. Vincent was having a bit of a wobble.
Theo suggested a break in the countryside of southern France and Vincent thought it a terrific idea.
He had a vision of a ‘Studio of the South’: an artist’s colony to match the one his friend Gauguin had gone to in Brittany, in the north of the country.
Vincent went to check things out in Arles and had a second epiphany. For a lad from northern Europe, the southern sun was a revelation. He thought he had understood and appreciated colour in Paris, but that was nothing compared to the intensity of hues produced by the light from God’s flaming orb in Provence. Everything was accentuated. Vincent had seen the light.
Much thanks to Will Gompertz’s book What Are You Looking At….some of the blog is directly taken from this fantastic book.