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Vincent Van Gogh: Modern Expressionism

Modern expressionism stems directly from the tragic Dutchman, Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), a man a little older than Georges Seurat, who died a year before Seurat did. Both stemming from impressionism, these contemporaries could hardly be more unlike - Seurat with his calculation, his method, his deliberation, van Gogh with his passion, his shattering vehemence.

Instead of La Grande Jatte (see Seurat), so cool, so defined, so self contained, van Gogh gives us The Starry Night, where a whirling force catapults across the sky and writhes upward from the earth, where planets burst with their own energy and all the universe surges and pulsates in a release of intolerable vitality. Like all the most affecting expressionist creations, The Starry Night seems to have welled forth onto the canvas spontaneously, as if the creative act were a compulsive physical one beyond the artist's power to restrain. "Inspiration" as a kind of frenzied enchantment visited upon a painter, a paroxysm calling forth images only halfwelled, is a justifiable conception in van Gogh's case, if it is ever justifiable at all.

The Starry Night, 1889

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