Consider the works of Jozef Israels and Vincent van Gogh and discuss the relationship between Impressionism and Expressionism.
Both Josef Israels and Vincent van Gogh are important impressionist artists who focus on light and shade in their works. However Izraels who was the most important Dutch painter of his generation has at times also been compared to Jean Francois Millet. This is due to the fact that both painted about the poor and expressed sympathy with their cause especially in Isreal’s painting which is dark and full of angst as well as portraying suffering with a dank intensity. Some critics have also described Israels’ work as being painted with suffering and gloom.
Israels’ treatment of the dramatic and historical subjects of his day was the starting point of his chequered career. However his visit to the small fishing town of Zandvoort near Harlem opened his eyes to the tragedy of life and its daily intense suffering and also changed the style of his painting. One of the most important works by Israels is in fact ‘The Zandvoort Fishermen’ where one can observe at close quarters the daily struggle of life. This theme was continued in ‘The Silent House’ and ‘The Village Poor’ where poverty and destitution are clearly portrayed.
Van Gogh’s bold form of impressionism lent itself to a number of finely wrought paintings which definitely show his affinity with the landscape genre. This magnificent view of Daubigny in the late 19th century almost brings up memories of Proustian elegance with its cultivated beauty.
One of the most enlightening features of this painting is the manner in which the boats are portrayed as they laconically await other passengers to board them. Van Gogh uses bold brushwork to convey a heady sense of imagery and relaxation; this is an artistic form which permeates the whole painting. The glut of people who are ready to board the boat seem to recede into the distance although one can also make out certain details such as men in hats and women in long blue skirts. Another particularly interesting and intriguing effect is the use of shadows in the foreground of the painting which also demonstrates Van Gogh’s boldly innovative painting techniques.
The people who are strolling along the Daubigny seem to be taking a rather relaxed view of life. It was not uncommon for the Paris bourgeoisie, in particular women, to walk outside with their children or pets and enjoy the fresh clean air near the river in those times. Renoir almost creates a kind of ‘ghosts from the pasts’ scenario which as aforementioned, is very similar to Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.
One can also note the artist’s architectural prowess in describing the churches of Paris which lie in the background. The domes are carefully described and the distinct architectural features are there to be seen especially the masonry and stonework which come across as quite beautifully eloquent. This is sheer artistry at its brilliant best with several apt descriptive touches such as the people moving along and the queues waiting for the river boats. The use of colour is also very much a Van Gogh touch with the woman who appears closest to the edge of the painting wearing a beige like dress which comes across as quite stark and prim, this is indeed typical of the artist.
Erickson, Kathleen Powers. At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh, 1998. ISBN 0-8028-4978-4
Gayford, Martin. The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles. London: Penguin, 2006. ISBN 0-670-91497-5