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  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • SPEAKER 1: We're looking at a painting

  • in the Fogg's collection.

  • It's a very famous self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh-- (DUTCH

  • ACCENT) Vincent van Gogh-- and it's one of the toughest

  • self-portraits I think I've ever seen.

  • SPEAKER 2: Tough in terms of the color?

  • Tough in terms of all that van Gogh

  • is achieving at this moment in the late 1880s?

  • SPEAKER 1: This is a painting that

  • feels incredibly modern to me.

  • A willingness to take risks that is--

  • SPEAKER 2: It's amazing in that way.

  • SPEAKER 1: --that are breathtaking, really.

  • SPEAKER 2: This is a color that no artist ever used before.

  • And an entire background painted like that?

  • What nerve he had to take such radical steps.

  • SPEAKER 1: So, my eye immediately goes

  • to the structure of the painting,

  • the way in which he's created the architecture of the face.

  • His use of line.

  • I look at the way in which the brush strokes

  • wrap around and sort of cascade around the eye

  • and down the nose.

  • And it's almost like a river of paint

  • as it flows across that face and begins to define it.

  • But then it's not just brush work at all.

  • It's the ways in which structure is actually built by color--

  • SPEAKER 2: Yeah, which I think was something

  • that Cezanne was also thinking about.

  • Creating volume with color instead of in the usual way,

  • with chiaroscuro.

  • But that the pinks and the purples that are in his temple,

  • and the way those modulate over to greens is like nothing

  • I've ever seen.

  • SPEAKER 1: So he's treating the structure of his face,

  • of his head, of his skull very much as

  • if it was a kind of plastic medium.

  • He writes about this portrait, that he has created eyes

  • almost as if he was Japanese, a reference to his love of East

  • Asian painting.

  • But this was a painting that was destined as a gift

  • to Gauguin, as part of an exchange--

  • SPEAKER 2: Right.

  • With this sort of Utopian idea of a brotherhood of artists

  • that was so important to him.

  • SPEAKER 1: And of course, Gauguin also

  • would have been very interested in East Asian art.

  • This way that he's rendered the hair on his head,

  • plastered down.

  • And it's a really strong contrast, visually.

  • The way in which the coat feels heavy and rough and oversized.

  • And then there's the very tight quality--

  • SPEAKER 2: To skin.

  • SPEAKER 1: To his skin, yeah.

  • SPEAKER 2: Well, what I was noticing that too

  • and what it was reminding me of was a skull.

  • The sense of the bones underneath his flesh and almost

  • a kind of memento mori.

  • Look at the browns and the blues,

  • rust colors in his jacket, and--

  • SPEAKER 1: This green.

  • This sea of acid light that surrounds him.

  • SPEAKER 2: He is just an amazing colorist.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

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A2 US speaker van gogh gogh painting vincent van

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin, 1888

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    Vivian Hung posted on 2014/09/11
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