art: cypresses, 1889, van gogh

“normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it.”

vincent van gogh

it’s no secret that vincent van gogh—heavily influenced by the neo- and post-impressionist movements—is one of the world’s most known and influential artists. it’s almost impossible not to recognize his most famous work, the starry night (1889), which depicts the view from his asylum room in saint-rémy-de-provence.

like many, i’m drawn to van gogh—not just for his paintings but for the art he created that resonates with his story. his distinct technique in painting with thick, dramatic brushstrokes and bold, vivid colors undoubtedly convey deep emotion and symbolism reflecting the artist’s psychological instability.

so, it’s to no surprise that one of my all-time favorite paintings is painted by the iconic artist himself.

cypresses (1889), currently on display at the metropolitan museum of art in new york, encapsulates an almost similar feel to several of his other naturesque paintings—including wheat field with cypresses (1889), cypresses with two figures (1889), cypresses and two women (1890). however, there’s something about this particular piece that, unlike the rest, pulls me in and makes me feel as though i belong in this vertically painted landscape.

the way that nature is rendered stylistically brings life into van gogh’s contradicting depictions. while landscape art generally captures a calming ambience, this painting juxtaposes opposing aspects through the intentional use of bright/dark colors and abstract/concrete shapes, merging both the tranquility and the restlessness of nature.

the thickness of the paint, defined brushstrokes, and curved lines used in creating this image certainly add on to the overall distortion which consequently transgresses boundaries of impressionism.

the central image of the painting (the cypresses themselves) is painted in much darker shades in comparison to the rest of the landscape. it’s almost as if the cypresses symbolize a dark yet honest reality of something that might appear bright and still at first glance.

but the more i immerse myself, i start to feel myself move with the same clashing wind that flows against the skies, the trees, and the grass. by immersing myself, i become a part of the painting while simultaneously challenging the natural and realizing that the power of imagination creates a potential reality—much like this painting has for me.

-k.t.

july 2019

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