Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Unusual Art from the Usual Artists--the Dark Side of van Gogh, Cezanne and DaVinci

Cezanne riveted us with his bright still-life paintings of fruit and lush fabrics and their slightly altered perspective.

Starry, swirling skies, multi-colored blooms and luminous cafes made van Gogh a favorite,

and DaVinci always fascinated us with his machines, forward thinking, perfect dimensions.

 Degas gave us a back-stage look at enigmatic ballerinas,

and Picasso used shapes and shadows to change the art world.

We are used to seeing certain things from certain artists.

We expect to see skinny walking skeletons dressed like Santa from Tim Burton, or dark and morose,  unfortunate children sketched in ink by Edward Gorey, but we do not assume the classic artists to have a dark side. We expect soft, blurry flowers and gardens  from Monet, or achingly perfect depictions of people sitting near a window by Vermeer.

Although we know van Gogh had a dark side by the famous and terrible story of his ear, we do not see his angst in his glorious pictures, unless we look for it. The Philadelphia Museum of Art had a display of many impressionists. I was very ready to feel bright and cheerful and to soak in the glow from the flowers and sunshine shown in the paintings.  I was not ready to see some of the more dark works of some of these same artists.

As I turned a corner I came across and small but stunning painting of skulls by Cezanne. The feel of his work was there, but the subjects opened a new corner in my brain. I was not used to this. This was new, and I was practically shaking.

The slightly upturned table so familiar to Cezanne's works was not covered in a rich fabric and lovely fruits and a bowl. In this painting it had death upon it.

Van Gogh has the ability to make you want to be part of his paintings. His cafe glows, his fields sway, and his flowers remind us of nature's beauty. And his bat shows us of the dark side we so rarely see in his art.

The picture of a skeleton with a cigarette also by van Gogh made a recent appearance as the cover of the David Sedaris's book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and also shows a bit of humor.

And two rats also by van Gogh--another surprise.

And here is a deliciously bleak Picasso.

A skull by Degas.

DaVinci was the slight exception. His medical drawings, machines, and inventions could lend themselves to the slightly macabre. Here is an example.

So yes, we have Tim Burton, Edward Gorey and Charles Addams--but we also have the web. We can find the dark and mysterious paintings and pictures from impressionists, post-impressionists, modernists and any famous artists that only the curators and collectors previously had access to.

And I am thrilled.


  1. Wow, I never knew. Thank you for sharing :)

  2. Glad you stopped in Denise, and you are welcome. Another neat thing--Charles Addams lived up the street from me when he was growing up, and there is a chalk sketch he drew of a skeleton is the garage. The house was for sale over the summer--very cool.
    Thanks for popping in :)

  3. Great post! I enjoy art, but am not an art lover and certainly not a student of art. I really enjoyed (although I may have nightmares now) the images you shared. Excellent. Thank you.

    Paul R. Hewlett

  4. Oh no! Nightmares!!
    The stuff in my head is much worse :)
    I am glad you liked the post.
    COngrats on your new book and best of luck as well.

  5. Wow, these are awesome. I've of course seen the Van Gogh smoking skeleton, but some of the others are new to me (and would excellent in that office I'll have someday). The DaVinci is especially interesting. I wonder what he is trying to capture on the left side. Hmm...

    Paul D. Dail

  6. What IS he drawing there??
    I love these too and would love the bat, skulls and the Picasso anywhere in my house.
    Hopefully--like you--I will have a more private studio one (one that does not involve the dining room) and will be able to be as dark as I like...
    Tell me when you get yours...


I would LOVE to know what you think. All spam or comments with links will be deleted.