Copies by Vincent van Gogh
Copies by Vincent van Gogh form an important group of paintings executed by Vincent van Gogh between 1887 and early 1890. While at Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Van Gogh admitted himself, seeking to be reinvigorated artistically, Van Gogh did more than 30 copies of works by some of his favorite artists. About twenty-one of the works were copies after, or inspired by, rather than replicate, Van Gogh sought to translate the subjects and composition through his perspective and technique. Spiritual meaning and emotional comfort were expressed through symbolism and color and his brother Theo van Gogh would call the pieces in the series some of his best work. During the winter months at Saint-Remy Van Gogh had a shortage of subjects for his work. Residing at Saint-Paul asylum, he did not have the freedom he enjoyed in the past, Millets work, who greatly influenced Van Gogh, figures prominently in this series. He wrote to Theo about these copies, I started making them inadvertently and now find that I can learn from them and my brush moves through my fingers like a bow over the strings of a violin – completely for my pleasure.
Several religious works, such as The Pietà, were included in the series, Saint-Paul asylum, housed in an old monastery, may have provided some of the inspiration for the specific subject. The nuns devoutness sometimes annoyed him, but he did find solace in religion and he wrote, I am not indifferent, and pious thoughts often console me in my suffering. Van Gogh Museum asserts that Van Gogh may have identified with Christ who had suffered and they offer the conjecture of some scholars of a resemblance between the Van Gogh and the red-bearded Christ in The Pietà and Lazarus in the copy after Rembrandt. However it is whether or not this was Van Goghs intention. Émile Bernard, an artist and Catholic mystic, was a personal friend to Van Gogh. Bernard influenced Van Gogh artistically several ways, Bernard outlined figures in black, replicating the look of religious woodcut images of the Middle Ages. This resulted in a flattened, more primitive work, Van Goghs Crows over the Wheatfield is one example of how Bernards simplified form influenced his work.
Bernard taught Van Gogh about how to manipulate perspective in his work, just as Van Gogh used color to express emotion, he used distortion of perspective as a means of artistic expression and a vehicle to modernize his work. As a demonstration of the sharing of artistic viewpoints, Van Gogh painted a copy in watercolor of a made by Bernard of Breton woman. Van Gogh wrote to Bernard of a utopian ideal where artists worked cooperatively, focused on a common idea, the Breton Women is one of many examples of how Van Gogh and one of his friends brought their unique temperaments and skills to a single idea. Gauguin made a work, Breton Women at a Pardon which was may have inspired by Bernards work of Breton women