Three Modern Artists
On this tour, you will look at works by three of historys most well-known artistsVincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Jackson Pollock. Each of these artists possessed a unique style, which facilitated the expression of his emotions and the depiction of his environment and which provides a record of the process of paint application. By examining the three artists works you will discover the color palettes, techniques, and styles that are typical of each.
Take time to look carefully, think about what you see, and consider the questions below. Your tour begins with a painting by Vincent van Gogh, an artist whose short career made an indelible mark on the history of art.
After their self-guided tour, students may return to their classroom to conduct a lab experiment to scientifically evaluate the authenticity of paintings (simulated) by these artists.
The Bedroom, 1889
Dutch, Vincent van Gogh (18531890)
Oil on canvas
Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.417
This brightly colored, closely cropped painting is a view of van Goghs bedroom in the house he shared with fellow artist Paul Gauguin in Arles, a town in southern France. The room appears happily bathed in southern light, but the steeply receding floor and tilting furniture undermine the restful mood of the room. Van Goghs medium here is oil paint, which is made by finely grinding a pigment and then mixing it with a translucent oil, such as linseed oil, until all of the pigment particles are uniformly coated and paste consistency is attained. Before the 19th century, oil paints were hand made, but by van Goghs time, they were commercially produced and packaged in tubes.
How would you describe the paintings colors? Do you think they were generated by layering paint directly on the canvas, or do they appear to have been mixed before they were applied to the canvas? What makes you think this? What colors dominate the painting? Can you find any pairings of complementary colors? How does this color palette make you feel? Describe the artists brushstrokes, and explain how they contribute to the feeling created by color. What is the focus of the painting? How did the artist draw your eye to it? How do the colors and lines lead your eye around the picture? Was the artist more concerned with duplicating reality or creating an impression? What led you to your conclusion?
Stacks of Wheat (Sunset, Snow Effect), 189091
French, Claude Monet (18401926)
Oil on canvas
Potter Palmer Collection, 1922.431
This painting is one of a series of similar views completed by Monet between 1890 and 1891. Each includes one or two stacks of wheat in an open field near the artists house in Giverny, France, surrounded by a band of hills. Monet painted these works at different times of the year, during which he captured many different effects of light, atmosphere, shadow, and weather, mood.
What colors does Monet use in this version of the subject? What time of day and season is it? How does the artist convey this information? What mood is created by the colors in the work? Do you think the colors were generated by layering paint directly on the canvas, or do the colors appear to have been mixed before they were applied to the canvas? What makes you think this? What is the focus of this painting? How did the artist draw your eye to it? How do the colors and lines lead your eye around the picture? What led you to your conclusion? Compare this composition to the others beside it. What are the similarities and differences?
How was this artists use of color different than van Goghs? How were his brushstrokes different than van Goghs?
Greyed Rainbow, 1953
American, Jackson Pollock (19121956)
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Society for Contemporary American Art, 1955.494
Pollocks Greyed Rainbow creates the illusion of a dizzying space in which splashes of black and white coil and intertwine, retract and expand. The canvas teems with bold, black arabesques, several of which end in fishtails. In the lower third of the composition, delicate colors emerge from this turmoil, just as a rainbow peeks through storm clouds. In his work, Pollock emphasized the expressive power of his own gestures, materials, and tools, often applying paint with sticks, trowels, and palette knives instead of brushes. This process led to the term action painting.
Describe the colors and brushstrokes used in this painting. How does this color palette make you feel? How important do you think color is in this painting? What is the significance of the title? How do you think that the paint was applied? Are the colors generated by layering paint directly on the canvas, or do the colors appear to have been mixed by the artist before they were applied? What led you to your conclusion? What is the focus of attention in the painting? Is there a focus? Explain. How do the colors and various lines make your eye move around the picture? What do you think the artist was trying to accomplish?
What makes Pollocks method of applying paint different from that of van Gogh and Monet? How is Pollocks choice of subject matter different?
We hope that you have enjoyed using this selfguide. Come again to the Art Institute to see other works by these artists, or works by other 19th- and 20th-century artists, such as Edgar Degas or William de Kooning. See what you can discover!