Nynke van der Beel asks why Van Gogh’s work has such a lifelike quality, even though he wasn’t a technically perfect painter. Discover the answer.
Whereas some people indeed consider Van Gogh’s work to be extremely lifelike, others would certainly disagree. And don’t forget that you’re looking at his paintings through 21st century eyes! In the 19th century, people were accustomed to the style of painting as it had been taught at the academy for centuries – smooth and precise.
From about 1860, the Impressionists ushered in major changes by painting using a looser technique, with strokes of unmixed paint that suggested forms instead of precisely conveying them. The Impressionists painted what they actually saw. Van Gogh, seen as part of the post-Impressionist movement, also wanted his work to actually express something.
For example, he wrote in a letter about his painting of his bedroom: ‘In short, looking at the painting should rest the mind, or rather, the imagination. [...] The solidity of the furniture should also now express unshakeable repose.’
Van Gogh was more concerned with the feel of the painting and less so with the (somewhat shaky) sense of perspective.