Thursday, January 10, 2013

Van Gogh Versus Vives-Atsara

Juxtaposed Landscape Masters

Once in a while an unofficial and subjective Art History Reevaluation lesson is required to fully appreciate the fine art generated locally in the San Antonio region. An unusual comparison of international Post-Impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh versus Spanish born, but San Antonio claimed landscape painter, Jose Vives-Atsara side by side.

{A perverse comparison I know but absolutely metaphysical
Mixed with a touch of self-gratification}…

Although both artists were passionately collected in highly esteemed social circles with political and social influences that enabled their careers- one artist was romanticized and made legendary, while the other only gaining international acclaim in the last half century. In a theoretic evaluation of local impressionistic master Jose Vives-Atsara, I am drawn to compare “Summer”, Catalina, Spain, 1976 to the brilliant painting of Van Gogh –“Haystacks of Provence”, 1888.

Both artists were well aware of traditional color theory as well as being reputable and skilled color mix-ologists. Van Gogh maximized the visual impact of color relationships with his signature artistic aesthetic; often reinforced with select pairs of complementary or contrasting colors- orange contrasted with blue and red playing opposite of green. Vives-Atsara on the other hand, used a minimally selective color palette of only 9 colors, mixed to achieve pictorial depth and linguistically artistic color dialogues.

Both artists worked “en plein air”, a preferred method for their need to be present in the landscape; viewing the “subject” in the natural light; in constant battle with the ever changing tonalities of the setting sun.  Both constructed compositions that included architectural elements that formulated classical compositions of foreground, middle ground, and background.  Evidently both were conscious of manmade structures that impede on a divine and god-given landscape; angular imperfections that would add anchoring components to an otherwise textbook layout and linear landscape arrangement.

Vincent van Gogh, Haystacks of Provence, Painting, Oil on Canvas
Arles, France: June, 1888 Kröller-Müller Museum Otterlo, Netherlands, Europe

Although Van Gogh’s haystacks read left to right in a seemly flat space, it appears to be slightly angled upward, maybe inferring a misconstrued one-point perspective; while Vives-Atsara’s haystacks read right to left; bouncing around in an expansive foreground.  His placements lead our eye to a center focal point, and then ease us past the washed-out and nondescript villas of Catalina, to the tree line boundary, and finally resting back on the final left bundle of hay.

The chiaroscuro properties of the darker shadows and bright highlights in the Vives-Atsara painting are bold and effective; while Van Gogh executes a radiant yellow/orange glow with only a hint of direct illumination by way of a bottom-heavy outlines of the harvest.

Subtle details are carefully considered by both artists. Van Gogh with his green window arches, a color used in earnest to add lush greenery and vegetation to the golden excessiveness; while Vives-Atsara’s windows hold true to a darkened portal void of any voyeuristic enticements. This shadowy mix is the same tone used to add a visual vigor to the tree lined mid-ground of his landscape.

Jose Vives-Atsara, “Summer”, Catalina, Spain, Painting, Oil on Canvas
Catalina, Spain: 1976, J.R. Mooney Galleries of Fine Art, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A

Application of paint was a concern for both artists as well. Dealing with changing light, tonality shifts and constant alterations of illumination, each artist worked in haste to capture a specific moment of time. Posthumous, each artist’s signature style is well regarded, appreciated, and valued due to the personal application of paint and color to the surface. Van Gogh’s thick expressive palette knife administration is often copied and replicated, a technique taught in many schools.  While Vives-Atsara, an honorary “Artist in Residence” and former instructor at the University of Incarnate Word, had a whimsical style reminiscent of an exploding star, peaking like cactus needles, and personalized with an energetic swipe and expressive jut of color.  Both painters shared pictorial elements that increased the market value of the work, along with the subject matter and desired dates of execution.

In essence, by comparing these two historically different, but conceptual similar artists (Vincent Van Gogh and Jose Vives-Atsara), I wish to unveil the seemingly obvious reason why it would be beneficial to do such an unconventional and perhaps maybe even a blasphemous comparison exercise.  By providing a small piece of knowledge for an expanded art appreciation to any audience, I want to allow the viewer a greater understanding of art from a historical backdrop; Art History baggage if you will that contemporary artists are bringing with them as they write the next chapter of Art History.

© Written by Gabriel Diego Delgado

Art Consultant
J.R. Mooney Galleries of Fine Art

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