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Renoir & Van Gogh - Two Impressionist Artists

Updated on February 2, 2014

Van Gogh’s “Route aux confine de Paris, avec payson portrait la beche sur l’epaule (Path on the outskirts of Paris, with a peasant carrying a spade)” 1887 has a unique history to it. This was in the hotel in Houston, TX that JFK was staying at the time of his assination. The hotel gave away this painting, along with others in the hotel.

Van Gogh was born in Zundert, Netherlands March 30, 1853 into a large family – siblings were Theo (with whom he was very close with), Will, Cornelis Vincent, Anna Cornelia, & Elisabeth Hulderta Du Quesne – Van Gogh. He never married, although had love interests. He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1886, and at Willem II College from 1886-88. He is best known for “The Starry Night”, “Starry Night over the Rhone”, “Sunflowers – Still Life – Vase with 12”, “Irises”, “Café Terrace at Night”, and “Wheatfield with Crows”. (

According to the curator at the Currier, this painting “depicts a laborer with spade walking a broad lane with Paris in the distance. He moved from Antwerp to Paris countryside and it had a profound effect on the art. Van Gogh moved in March 1866. Studying first hand work by leading Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painters; shed the earth toned palette and embraced the expressive power of color and modern French style. Created at the height of feverent experimentation with the new Pointillist style; championed by friend Paul Signac; met in early 1887. Abandoned this style of painting after one year; characterized by use of small distinct dots – pure color applied in a pattern.” (Currier Museum, 2013)

In viewing this from afar, everything blends in beautifully. When you move in a little closer you begin to notice the Pointillism technique. It was used in making the grass, trees and ground. The peasants’ clothing, and buildings appear to be painted in a “normal” technique. If you stand directly in front you can see a “base” done in white and the other colors placed in top in different shades. Also, the fences, river or the building in Paris aren’t done in Pointillism.

It’s on the contextual and psychological interpretation of a painting; the psychological aspect is how he was in the moment of painting this – in trying to get out of his usual way of painting into an unknown style. Contextual shows how he was influenced by the movement of the times in going with the Pointillism; use of bright colors in his palette. The representation in how you can clearly see what is going on here and its definition.

The painting has both vertical and horizontal lines – vertical in the fence and trees, the path could be considered as well; horizontal with the movement of the grass. He used organic shapes to portray things. They help show an open painting with texture; seen both up close and far afar. Once can see how Van Gogh applied the oils to give the form to the grass, trees and path. Due to the subject being shown in what appears to be a midday setting for time of day, there are few shadows by the fencing; other than that it’s very open lighting.

Van Gogh uses atmospheric and isometric perspective for this. The isometric is shown by the way the path and fencing moves on the painting. The trees and Paris show the atmospheric.

With his color palette, he goes a complete one eighty degrees from what we normally associate with him. Everything does blend in beautifully. Up close you can see every dot placed with precision for the technique. There are lots of primary colors involved; mainly yellow and blue, with some red here and there. Green covers the secondary. There’s a twenty percent shading over by the fence line; and a light tint throughout the rest of the piece. Intensity changes in a few places, but it’s mostly consistent with warm colors, but there are cooler ones on the figure to represent the clothing.

The motions in this are both kinetic and static. The man walking down the center path shows the kinetic side, while the trees and plants moving on the left, and the taller grass on the right by the fence show the static. Shapes are within the buildings, but the Pointillism portrays the other shapes by placement of the dots. There is an open feel to this, yet its balances by the alternating paths and grass, and the worker walking down the center path, but once again the left is very slightly heavier due to the trees, Paris. The worker is proportionate in position with the painting by being in the middle. Trees are in proportion to the people shown, as well as fencing, buildings as well for the background placement. In regards to the ratio, the painting appears to be a Root 5 Rectangle – goes from the building on the right side to the worker, trees then to Paris. The emphasis is on the open field; shown by the dirt path and grass giving the openness. Focal point once again is stressed by where Van Gogh has put the worker; and if you can call it this, Paris would be subordinate by its size and placement in the painting. There is a repetitive motion in the way the dirt and grass alternate.

As shown, both Renoir and Van Gogh were both played a big part in the Impressionist movement of their time, but yet have a different way of expressing their thoughts and feelings through the way the paint. Helps prove the point that one can belong to something, yet their own take on things is what makes art enjoyable. One can look at it, and see and feel something; while another person gets something else.

Works Cited van Gogh

European Loans on View – Currier Museum of Art

Certain artists are known by everyone; others may hear about them in passing but not quite sure who they are. For some, unless you are in the art world in some way you may net even know about the artist. Let me give two examples of this – Van Gogh is known by just about everyone; “Starry Night” is the most recognized piece of his, with “Sunflowers” being the second. Renoir, to some, is recognized by some for his paintings of people in everyday events.

In the Currier Museum of Art, located in Manchester, NH, has both Impressionist artists work on display together until January 13, 2014 under “European Loans Now on View”. Next to them is a painting owned by the museum, another famous Impressionist artist; Claude Monet. Monet’s painting on display is “The Seine @ Bougival” (1869). While all three belong to this particular movement, there is a slight difference between them. Monet stayed true to his ways, while Renoir’s painting was a different twist for him; “while many know Renoir as a figure painter, this work is essentially a landscape” (Currier Museum, 2013) and Van Gogh’s is a dabble in another style; completely different than what we are accustomed to seeing from him. All are oils on canvas.

“Similar to Monet’s “Bridge at Bougival”, Renoir preferred painting leisure pursuits of the middle class. The painting depicts two figures moving from a wooded forest to a brilliantly lit garden laden in a wide range of flowers in full bloom. The flowers, executed in short dabs of luminous pigment, dominate the foreground, casting reflected color onto a path that trails off into the distance. The path is a common compositional device used to create the sense of vastness, drawing the viewer into the picture. (Also use din Van Gogh and Monet.) The bright white parasol instantly attracts the viewer’s gaze. The woman behind her rendered in darker pigments with less detail; partially cloaked by forest shadows.

Likely done summer of 1873 – went to paint with Monet. Monet lived in Argenteuil at the time, five min Northwest of Paris.” (Currier Museum)

In visual analysis of the Renoir, there is a mix of vertical lines – the trees – with some horizontal lines; a mix of organic, negative/positive shapes by the figures. The vertical shows the strength and stability while the horizontal relays a calm and peacefulness to the painting. The changes to the form and values are portrayed nicely. Done in an organic form, its open in the center of the path and you feel drawn in further down the path. It’s very textured; within the trees, grass, flowers and path. Upon looking closely you can see the brush strokes creating this. The values from the foreground to the background are noticeable. Obviously the light source is up front and a bit stronger on the left by the garden. In the background there’s some reflected light, although it’s mostly shadows. The trees and position of the women on the path are what gives this its depth; the colors and how they play out help amplify this as well as the atmospheric perspective. The color palette is a huge part of this painting. There is light saturation in the front with a few darker spots, a and the background is the opposite. The trees have different values of green and brown within them and the flowers are a mix of solid colors and some have a mixture of light with darker streak in the center. Definitely warmth to it; the path has a peach tint to it with some blue/grey shadows. The woman in the foreground is very monochromatic. Overall, it has a very relaxing Sunday stroll vibe to it.

You feel as if the path turns; all depending on where you are standing for a viewing angle – left, right or straight in front of you. There is a fun variety on the flowers, some are just “dabbled’ onto the canvas while others have some more form to them. The leaves appear to be moving with by Renoir’s placement of the different shades of green. The bottom of the woman with the parasol seems triangular in shapes up close. A sense of closeness due to the cooler colors chosen for the background. With the woman in the center it has good balance, although with the garden it has a very slight more left lean to it.

The painting overall is of a medium scale; everything is proportionate – trees to the canvas, the women walking. It also has a Golden Mean proportion to it, beginning with the path, moving into the garden then to the woman with the parasol. Emphasis is in these 3 elements. The path and garden take the focal point, then it brings you to the woman.

Patterns would be found in the flowers and trees – the placement and how it’s painted onto the canvas. Also the colors in the trees with the different values of green and flowers in shades of red and peach

“Femmes dan un Jardin” is a representational piece, you can clearly define what’s in this painting. I feel that it’s also biographical in the respect that his family and past experiences have played a part in making this; and contextual as it shows part of the economic times.

Van Gogh
Van Gogh

Renoir Self Portrait 1910

Van Gogh Self Portrait

Personal Favorite?

Do you feel one was more influential than the other? If so, who?

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Impressionist Art

© 2014 JenniferB


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