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Portraits of Artists: Van Gogh, Homer, and Degas

Updated on April 25, 2020
Mark O Richardson profile image

Mark has always loved art. First it was drawing, then art history. His minor was in Art History

Vincent Van Gogh

Self Portrait, Vincent Van Gogh
Self Portrait, Vincent Van Gogh | Source

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), born in the Netherlands and was the son of a preacher. He has had a powerful impact on Modern art. He went to boarding school at age 12. He left school at age 16. He would read Dickens and the Bible. His brother, Theo financially supported Vincent, which tried his patience. Theo was a good brother and was there for him. He liked animals. He was stubborn and hot-tempered. He liked the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. He was familiar with the works of Homer and Voltaire. Vincent was fond of Cezanne. Several letters of his were preserved. He signed his works as Vincent. He liked Daumier and Rembrandt. He went by Vincent because the French couldn’t pronounce his last name. Woman Spinning (1885) is dark and is similar to work by Millet. Completed 3 versions of the Potato Eaters (1885, oil on pasteboard), which was his first large, ambitious work. This was for humanitarian efforts, not aesthetics. He completed many self-portraits, 40 mostly within 3 years. One of his most popular was Self Portrait with Hat Standing in Front of Eisel (1886 or 1887, oil on canvas). His Self Portrait with Grey Hat (1887) shows his green eyes and it looks as if the head is separate, as if it were attached. Hill of the Martyrs used pointillism. Still Life with Decantur and Lemons (1887) shows a Japanese quality, as did other works. Pere Tangui (1887) depicts the subject similar to Buddha. There is Japanese art in the background. Tangui’s wife did not like Vincent. Vincent used a lot of paint in his works and couldn’t sell them. Was multi-talented as he did portraits, still life’s and landscapes. Fishing Boats on the Beach at San Marie (1888, oil on canvas) is similar to Monet. Completed many versions of Sunflowers in 1888. Yellow was probably his favorite color. Night Café (1888) was said by Vincent to be one of the ugliest works that he had done. Trinque Taille Bridge (1888, oil on canvas) depicts a bridge that was later destroyed. Starry Night is one of his most popular works. Gaugin at Arrol (1888)-People thought Gaugin messed Vincent up because Vincent went to an asylum. He only sold one painting, the equivalent of $80. Was 37 when he died. “What’s the use?” were his last recorded words. Gaugin died 6 months after Van Gogh. He felt that the world was put together quickly by God on a bad day. There is a museum for his works in Amsterdam.

Winslow Homer

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer
Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer | Source

Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer 1836-1910. Was an American Romantic artist, post-Civil War. Wanted to capture the innocence before the war. He started out as an illustrator with Harper’s Weekly in the 1850’s. He liked realism. Snap the Whip (1872) and Breezing up “a Fair Wind” (1876) were some of his most popular works. He spent some time in England.

Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas, Self Portrait
Edgar Degas, Self Portrait | Source

Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was born in Paris to a wealthy family. His father was an international banker, born in Naples. His works were almost always compositional. He liked Ingres work. Met Pissarro, Renoir and others. He visited Italy in 1856. His grandfather lived in Naples. He completed many self-portraits. He was an aristocrat. He was not rich but had enough for his needs. Many observed him and were fascinated. He was a good horse painter. Took a Longchamp course in Paris. The Guitarist (1860) was happily received. Spartan Boys and Girls exercising (1862) has an unfinished quality, trying to emphasize realism. The Gentleman’s Race: Before the Start (1862) was reworked extensively, particularly in 1882. Woman with Chrysanthemums was unusual, with various colors. He did very few still life’s. Henri Degas and his Niece Lucie (1876, oil on canvas) brings a strong sense of immediacy. Victoria Duborg (1868-1869)-She was born in 1840 and was a painter of still life. She married Fontan Latour. It was a dark painting and she has a non-feminine pose. The empty chair signifies her late husband and may have been added later. She is blamed for Latour losing some of his creativity. La Viol (1868-1872) is showing a scene from a novel by Zola. The room seems to be small, so it confines and brings the viewer in. Hortense Valpincon (1869-1871, oil on canvas) has a daughter of one of his schoolmates. In 1924, she displayed the painting. Carriage at the Races OR At the Races in the Countryside has mild colors and is calming, with a scattered landscape. It looks English. At the Races, Before the Stands (1869-1872, oil on canvas) shows that he was fond of horse races. This example was cartoonish and uses mostly mild colors. Degas was a Realist lured by Impressionism. Degas’ Father Listening to Peganz (1869-1872) captures facial expressions and captures an elderly look. It is semi-sketchy. Dance Forier at the Opera (1872) is detailed, with Realism. Rehearsal (1873) captures the singer in action and seems to be like a snapshot due to how the figures are captured. It also shows that Degas had a deep love of music. Café Concert-Song of the Dog (1875-1877, Gouache and pastel on paper) shows lights that are abstract/surreal. He did not like being called Impressionist, so he preferred to be called Independent. The Absinthe Drinker (1876) captures facial expressions. Miss Lola at the Circus (1879, oil on canvas) has light, feminine, spring colors. This painting captures her gestures as she hangs from her teeth. Mary Cassatt Holding Cards (1884, oil)-They collaborated on a journal. Cassatt didn’t like this painting. Before the Takeoff (1885) is colorful and Impressionist. Is like Matisse’s work. After the Bath (1885, pastel on paper) is sketchy and is proof of how it was said that Degas depicted women as if they were cats. Little Dancer of 14 years (1880-1881, bronze & cloth) is an example of one of his sculptures. Degas was thought to be the best sculptor of the time after Rodin. Other popular works: Achilles Degas in the Uniform of a Cadet (1857, oil), Bellileri Family (1858-1860, oil), Self Portrait (1862), Mesuer and Madame Morbelli (1867, oil, his sister Terece was in the painting), Houses Upon a Cliff Overlooking the Bay (1869) and Cotton Market, New Orleans (1873). It appears that most of his work depicted women, often dancing or bathing. Later in life, he was isolated.


My notes from Art History classes with some confirmations from Wikipedia, primarily for spelling.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Mark Richardson


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