Blackpaint 215

Van Gogh

Yes, so BROWN those early ones;  only relief the odd snow one (like Brueghel), or a red sun going down or red strip on the horizon; or maybe red cloth in the loom or the white cambric caps of the women.  Sorry – there is black and grey as well, in “The Potato Eaters”, a pale, washed blue sky and maybe a dark sea at Scheveningen; dark, burning orange through the poplars at dusk in the woods.

The startling exception is “the Bulb fields” at the Hague, 1883, I think; piercing, bright colours, short, thin brushstrokes – three years too early!  Because, winter of 1886-7, now in Paris, the colours start to push through the brown.   Light appears, and those little, short darting dabs with the brush.. .   There’s still a lot of brown about, and he sometimes reverts – but he’s found some new colours and rediscovered the brushwork of the Bulb Fields.  This is probably well-covered territory, but as someone who knows little about VG, I found it startling how obvious the changes in palette and brush strokes appear when you simply page through the paintings in chronological order.


I know I said I wouldn’t – but there are a couple of things I must mention.  The first is the Last Judgement again.  There is a skull-faced entity rising from the ground on the resurrection side – beneath him/it,  is the face of a bearded man, invisible except in enlargements; could it be another self-portrait?  Looks close enough to me.

The second point relates to the presentation drawings.  I stated confidently some time back that a disputed painting of the Sermon on the Mount couldn’t be by M because it contained a large number of trees – and Michelangelo doesn’t do trees.  The only exceptions I knew of were the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, around which the serpent is coiled and a couple of shattered trunks, emerging from water in the Flood (both from the Sistine ceiling).  

For the sake of completeness,  I should mention the drawing of Phaeton’s sisters, growing branches and roots as they are transformed (although the gnarled tree bidon’t look like poplar, as Ovid specifies); and a stump in the background of the picture of Tityos having his liver eaten by an eagle.  None of these exceptions, I think, are enough to attack the general proposition, so “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees” remains Blackpaint’s Law.

St. Barbara by Blackpaint



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