Unreal Nature

February 2, 2017

And There Remains in the End That Struggle

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… and there remains in the end that struggle between the vanishing point and an adjacent distant object [the sun], which is a recurrent feature of van Gogh’s vision.

This is from Vincent Van Gogh by Meyer Schapiro (2003). After a biographical synopsis, Schapiro does close readings of single pictures. Here he’s writing about The Enclosed Field painted in 1889:

vangogh_enclosedfield
The Enclosed Field, 1889

This painting is disturbing to many eyes because of its unstable form and abrupt division of the landscape into the nearer and farther spaces. This risky, exceptional choice will justify itself as we come to know the work better. It belongs to van Gogh not only through the infusion of the landscape with sharply contrasting moods and forces, but in the energy of the execution itself, the marked rhythm of the patches of color, the multiplied movements throughout space.

[line break added] In its daring unbalance we observe deliberate moves of stabilization through the dark green anchoring spot at the lower right, the horizontals of the red field at the upper left and the succeeding layers of mountains and buildings, and, above all, the attraction of the strangely colored, off-centered sun.

The enclosed field — the space of the artist himself, a world of luxuriant growth and warm light, spotted with poppies, blue flowers, and whites (but also with grave touches of black), a region of pure happiness — is steeply inclined, permeated by chaotic forces, and cut off from the world around it by a powerful rushing band of lavender-blue, which joins diagonally opposite corners of the picture in two broken lines, each rendered still more unstable by the dark wavy shadow stream at its lower edge.

[line break added] In contrast, the far distance is cold in color, even acid in places, and the yellow sky rising above the cold mountains is of a famished yellow; the sun of the same tone, outlined in deeper yellow, is pallid beside the luminous yellows of the enclosed field. The purple soil of the olive grove in the nearest region is equally cold. The bright yellow and red spots of the distance help to restore the balance — in their grouping they are clearly horizontal elements. The perspective too is used as a countering means.

[line break added] A succession of darker patches in the middle of the enclosed field — vague traces of furrows — forms a curved line symmetrical to the fence on the left and directed to the solitary tree on the mountaintop above the red houses. This implied recentering of the view has to compete with the sun beyond it, and there remains in the end that struggle between the vanishing point and an adjacent distant object, which is a recurrent feature of van Gogh’s vision.

My most recent previous post from Schapiro’s book is here.

-Julie

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