Abstract Canvas Prints No 49 : Mona Lisa
El Greco and Van Gogh shared several passions beyond art.
Both were religious and disliked the materialism of their respective ages.
Neither artist found launching his career very easy, and both had to move away from the country of their birth to find the inspiration and support they needed.
But when it came to expressionistic painting there was a difference that sets them apart.
El Greco’s subjects tended to be mystical, aristocratic or religious, whereas Van Gogh was concerned with the more mundane aspects of modern life: cafés, trees, bedrooms and peasants.
His expressionistic response to these everyday subjects, set firmly within his own experience, was the visionary formula for taking art into the future.
Although he died in 1890 largely unknown and unrecognized, Van Gogh’s influence on modern art was almost immediate.
Within three years the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944) painted his now famous The Scream (1893), a creation that owes much to Van Gogh.
The Scandinavian artist had long wanted to make his paintings more emotional, but couldn’t work out how.
It was on a visit to Paris in the late 1880s, where he saw the work of the Dutch Post-Impressionist, that he came to understand how his own artistic ambition could be achieved.
Munch copied Van Gogh’s method of ‘warping’ the image in The Scream to convey his deep inner emotions.
The result is a picture that’s the epitome of an expressionistic painting: the distorted horror on the figure’s face, with its mix of terror and pleading, leaves the viewer in no doubt of the artist’s anxiety-ridden view of the world.
It is a prescient picture, perhaps even a modern Mona Lisa.
Painted at the dawn of Modernism, it evokes future horrors and human unease at the prospect of a new age.