Why Is Van Gogh So Popular Today?

In the beginning of this year, Miami opened its doors to the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. If you haven’t had the chance to experience the show first handedly, lucky for you it’s been extended until November 2021. Miami would be one of 22 major cities in the world to open this incredible virtual experience to the public, giving us a walk into the artistic world of our friend Vincent.

Immersive and captivating, the exhibition is a virtual walk-through of some of the most pivotal pieces of Van Gogh’s career. With walls, pillars and floors used as a moving canvas to display his artwork, the exhibit features over 300 of Van Gogh’s most iconic masterpieces, including “The Starry Night”, “Sunflowers” and “Café Terrace at Night.” The detail of the projections that one can see depth in the brush strokes, as if you could reach out and feel the texture of the paint gives the audience an experience of a lifetime.

You might ask yourself: Why Is Van Gogh So Popular in today’s modern world?

Van Gogh’s work is perhaps, if not one of the most recognizable in any art show, museum or gallery. The language he speaks that captives us through his pieces, could be seen anywhere in the world. It’s the colors and the style that reaches us. It is uniquely him. Till this day, 130+ years after his death, his audience stands from all parts of the world, touching all kinds of people, of any ethnicity, age, gender, or sex. So why is it that Vincent has such a hold on us, even years after death? The question stands: Why is Vincent Van Gogh so popular?

Who was Vincent Van Gogh?

In an early article, we talked about the tortured artist, giving some insight on what made people fall in love with his art work, even after his death. Van Gogh was a mentally ill artistic genius who painted the world in bright colors. His expressive and emotive use of color and distinct brushwork became hugely popular and massively influenced Expressionism, Fauvism and early abstraction as well as various other aspects of 20th-century art. Van Gogh’s unique life has inspired millions to become active in art. In fact, what many people today consider to be the archetypical “artist persona” is largely a result of his influence.

We can break down some reasons why Vincent Van Gogh is so relatable in today’s age, and how he is still able to captivate the audience emotional and visually.

Display of a multi-school approach

Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was well into his late thirties. Furthermore, the majority of his paintings were completed in less than a decade, with the majority of his well-known pieces created in the final two years before his death. During this time, the art world was transitioning from Realism, an era dedicated to accurately expressing subject matter, to Post-Impressionism, which focused on the naturalistic depiction of light and color. The focus turned to Modern Art, which investigated the spirit of the experiment. Amidst all this, Van Gogh’s paintings displayed a certain sense of blend and balance which contributed to its growing popularity over the years.

Conveyance of novel interpretations

According to experts, the artist is a mirror that reflects the universe’s face. Van Gogh is known for portraying unique representations in his paintings. Through his paintings, he not only displayed what was in front of him, but he also conveyed a sense of feeling and connection.

In paintings like “Café Terrace At Night”, we can see first handed how Van Gogh recreated the setting directly from his observations, a practice inherited from the Impressionists. But unlike his fellow Impressionists at the time, he did not record the scene merely as his eye observed it, but imbued the image with a spiritual and psychological tone that echoed his individual and personal reaction. The brushstrokes vibrate with the sense of excitement and pleasure Van Gogh experienced while painting this work.

Being way ahead of his time

Although Van Gogh was only a renowned artist for a decade, he never shied away from creative experimentation. In his last five years as a painter, he has created a niche of his own that has never been explored by his contemporaries. An excellent example of this is one of his most famous paintings, The Starry Night. Created from memory, this marvelous piece of art depicts the scenery outside Van Gogh’s room window in France. It demonstrates his avid interest in astronomy as the various celestial bodies in the painting are placed in the exact position that they occupied that clear night.

The emphasis on interior, emotional life is clear in his swirling, tumultuous depiction of the sky – a radical departure from his previous, more naturalistic landscapes. Here, Van Gogh followed a strict principle of structure and composition in which the forms are distributed across the surface of the canvas in an exact order to create balance and tension amidst the swirling torsion of the cypress trees and the night sky.

The Starry Night
Painting by Vincent van Gogh

Saint Rémy, June 1889.

MoMA The Museum of Modern Art

The unusual choice of subjects

One of the most unconventional subjects which Van Gogh chose for his painting was himself. A relatively unknown artist at that time with limited financial resources, Van Gogh did not have money to pay for models. Hence, he painted self-portraits which went on to become one of his most renowned works. Apart from this, he found his inspirations in the simplest subjects such as trees, fields, churches among other things which catered to a wider audience further increasing his admiration among artists and critics alike. After cutting off a portion of his right earlobe during a manic episode while in Arles, Van Gogh painted Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear while recuperating and reflecting on his illness. He believed that the act of painting would help restore balance to his life, demonstrating the important role that artistic creation held for him. This self-portrait, one of many Van Gogh created during his career, has an intensity unparalleled in its time, which is elucidated in the frank manner in which the artist portrays his self-inflicted wound as well as the evocative way he renders the scene.

To the question why is Van Gogh so popular today? we can say that Vincent Van Gogh had established himself as an institution in the field of art through his great works. Although he is often referred to as the “Mad Artist”, his influence continues to encourage emerging artists to work at his craft and fascinate audiences with his paintings. That’s why his connection with the audience today, is if anything greater than it’s ever been in other generations. Van Gogh connects with everyone in different ways, whether it be by color scheme, or the subjects he chose to paint, his own unique art style is ingrained into the public mind, and created a community of individuals that can appreciate the art of the artists who saw the world as his own canvas.

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