Arles, exhibition, modern art

van Gogh and the Independence of Drawing

Vincent van Gogh, Vieillard buvant du café [Old man drinking coffee], November 1882, 49x28.3cm

Vincent van Gogh, Vieillard buvant du café [Old man drinking coffee], November 1882, 49×28.3cm

The exhibition of drawings by van Gogh at the Fondation van Gogh in Arles, France (visited between two photography exhibitions; running until September, 20) puts an emphasis on a lesser known dimension of the painter, and especially on the first years of his learning how to draw. Rather than becoming classically trained in formal nudes, van Gogh collects prints, cuts out engravings from newspapers, and constitutes reference albums for himself in doing so. For instance, William Small’s etching from his London Sketches, A November Fog (below) creates a sort of floating, equivocal reality through the treatment of the fog, and of the plumes of smoke coming from the torches or the horses’s breaths. Moreover, one can imagine van Gogh being fascinated with the curvilinear and blurred lines of this drawing – in the same way he appreciated Japanese engravings and drawings. Continue reading

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