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Guest the Artist – Old Church Edition

I liked playing “Guess the Artist” last month so I have another good one for you.

old church painting

old church painting

This is an early work of a famous painter. To make it difficult, I’m not going to give you any clues! (Other than this artist has a super obvious signature which I had to cover up in the picture.)

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It is almost not fair to look at this painting online and try to guess the painter.  If you look closely in person, you can see in the minutia, traces of who this artist would later become.

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Do you have a guess yet?

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Vincent van Gogh's "The Old Church Tower at Nuenen (The Peasants' Counrtyard)" from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh’s “The Old Church Tower at Nuenen (The Peasants’ Counrtyard)” from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh!  Known for his vibrant colors and unruly brushwork, Vincent started his career examining peasant life.  He produced this painting in 1885 as well as his famous “Potato Eaters” which uses a dark palette to highlight the bleak existence of rural farmers.

Vincent van Gogh's famous image of peasant life "De Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters)" (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

Vincent van Gogh’s iconic image of peasant life “De Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters)” (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

I was really surprised by the realism of “The Old Church Tower at Nuenen.”  The play of light off the stone tower and the smokey sky are lovely.  The subject matter, composition, and execution seems to bridge the realism and provincial subject matter of Corot’s work with the darkness and pessimism of Coubet’s peasant world.

"The Roman Campagna in Winter" by Camille Corot

“The Roman Campagna in Winter” by Camille Corot from 1830 illustrates the prevailing painting style for somber country scenes. (Chrysler Museum of Art, USA)

Vincent van Gogh is not know as a good draftsman.  His lines are often crooked, curvy and generally not accurate representation of the subject matter even in his small study drawings.  But in this month’s mystery painting he does a very good job of creating a solid and realistic tower.  Knowing that the tower should look as real as possible, he must have struggled to create the image.  I like looking at this painting and thinking about Vincent’s conscious effort here to copy a style.  The work must have been slowly and meticulous executed which seems light years away from his free “painting-a-day” pace at the end of this life.  Of course later he abandoned some of this rigid realism and painted churches in his own undulating way.

Vincent van Gogh - The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise

By comparison to the mystery painting in this post, “L’église d’Auvers-sur-Oise (The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise)” appears to be melting with its curved, undulating lines. (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

Interestingly, early Vincent was already physically painting his own way.  Van Gogh’s works have linear strokes of color and very deliberate hash marks of parallel color.  While the church walls above are done in lines of green and yellow, they are done in muted roses and brown in the mystery painting.  If you look closely, the tower’s facade is a thickness of horizontal and vertical hashes which would have been a good clue toward Vincent Van Gogh.

Vincent van Gogh "The Old Church Tower at Nuenen (The Peasants' Counrtyard)" detail

Deliberate vertical and horizontal brushstrokes are a signature of Vincent van Gogh.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. I feel cheated! Be’jajus!
    Was going to guess van Gogh, was scrolling down the page, for the comment bar, to guess van Gogh,
    and what do i see?

    The answer- van Gogh!

    Nice idea though, and great post.

    Doing more of these quiz things myself recently… Good good.
    Arran. 🙂

    Like

    August 22, 2013

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