Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” has long been considered the most recognizable painted image to emerge from the art world. Van Gogh, who lived mainly in France, Belgium and Holland, past in 1890 after a final period of great productivity. Van Gogh’s work is a great mixture of expressionism, naturalistic observation, and not surprisingly a draftsmanship he learned in studying the works of other artists such as Millet. His work is passionate and bold, and highly contrasting color patterns are often laid down to create a real sense of movement. “Starry Night” is also said to be the most often reproduced of any painting, and vendors such as OverStockArt claim it is their most popular print.
Van Gogh’s Starry Night
Claude Monet, oft regarded as the founder of the impressionists is also among the most popular artists. His work is much less direct even then Van Gogh’s at times, and is more about color harmony and the sensations of memory then observation. He created many legendary works throughout his career, including a series of painting of the Rouen Cathedral in the lightings of a variety of different times of day. He is said to have set up a dozen canvases and worked on each for 7 or 8 minutes each day, before switching to the next as the light changed. There is likely some embellishment to that fable, as the paintings were probably greatly reworked in the studio after the fact. His “Garden at Giverny” and “Poppy Field at Argenteuil” are probably his most recognizable, and the atmospheric quality that runs through the majority of his oils makes them easily identifiable.
While Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Gustav Klimt and Wassily Kandinsky are also among the most popular, we must look at a variety of factors that have led to this. Van Gogh in particular was not successful in his lifetime. His work, though frequently reproduced now did not sell, he was virtually unknown to the Europe as a whole, and considered a bit of an outcast to his peers and those around him. The other artists mentioned existed as painting reached a pinnacle at the turn of the 20th Century, and generally as technology and the advent of photography changed the needs and demands for painting. Today, paintings are easily and cheaply reproduced, and enjoyed in a way the artists likely never would have imagined. Modern artists are able to spread their work around with greater ease thanks to the internet and mainstream publishing, and it is conceivable that the public may learn of an artist in their lifetime. Such noted painters as Jack Vettriano, while scorned by the art establishment for his populist, almost commercial approach, are fast competing for the most recognizable images. More art is now likely purchased at Target or Costco then from artists themselves, or even commercial galleries. The images considered most popular or recognizable have been beaten into our subconsciousness via calendars, mugs t-shirts and other bizarre licensing, and it is a wonder they haven’t lost some of their edge.
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