Van Gogh – painting and work

Photo by Carmela Gross


Van Gogh's early empathy with proletarian life and his appreciation of the work ethic produced significant new economics.


In the beginning, when sketching his first artistic attempts, which date back to the early 1880s, Van Gogh (1853-1890) denoted (like Cézanne [1839-1906]) coming from the fruitful common trunk of romanticism and realism; trunk that had in Daumier (1808-1879) a crucial and paradigmatic branch, and a moral landmark.

Van Gogh, at the beginning of his career, added the dramatic luminosity of Rembrandt (1606-69) to aspects drawn from realism, from Daumier and Courbet (1819-1877), and from the rural rusticity of painting, from Millet (1814-75). and the Barbizon group. He also adopted explicitly anti-capitalist views and attributed heroic traits to the worker in general.[I]

It is known, by the way, that Van Gogh tried religious investiture before defining himself by an artistic training from 1880 onwards. Thus, for about two years, between 1878 and 1880, he dedicated himself to the evangelization of coal miners in Borinage, in the south of Belgium.

A few years later, when referring to the now famous The Potato Eaters (The Potato Eaters, April 1885, oil on canvas, 82 x 114 cm, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum), a work of his initial production carried out in Holland, the painter highlighted (in a letter to his brother Theo, on 30.4.1885/XNUMX/XNUMX) the emphasis given to the painting in the hands of the figures – in fact, crucial factors of the painting's centripetal dynamism.[ii] Thus, the painter praised the manual work of the peasants and the fact that, for this reason, they earned their living honestly, as he said.

While living in the Netherlands, Van Gogh's commitment to the workers comprised a realistically oriented pictorial style, but with strong romantic accents and literary influences, from Hugo and other authors of the period.[iii] This perspective, with idealistic aspects, was transformed and quickly gained new features after Van Gogh moved to France in 1886.

In that country, more industrialized, cosmopolitan and dynamic than the Netherlands at that time, Van Gogh came into direct contact with the works of Manet (1832-1883), as well as impressionism and symbolism.

The change had strong consequences for his work, which was updated in the light of these recent French experiences, and was re-elaborated in terms that were very different from the previous period, in Holland. However, at the same time, according to an orientation not as different from the previous one as many authors would have us believe, especially those with a symbolist and formalist orientation.

The latter, in general, proposed an absolute break between the first period of his work and the celebrated and prolific production of Van Gogh in the following four years (1886-90), until his early death.

Now, I intend to show just the opposite: that the mature work of Van Gogh corresponded to a realistic synthesis between aspects of the previous work, carried out in Holland, and elements of the new situation. And that this process was developed precisely around a radical analysis of painting, inseparable from a critical and effective in-depth understanding of the social question and the concept of work.


Pathos and redemption

The character of Van Gogh's early output was sentimental and compassionate. Thus, he united a dramatic luminosity to the identifying pathos that commanded the choice of themes.

The depicted scenes, already eloquent in themselves of the daily sacrifices of workers, were converted in Van Gogh's works into images of severe dignity that conferred an austere redemption on human suffering in pictorial terms; this one, much more self-organized and aesthetically elaborate than Millet's resigned and pious mushyness, one of Van Gogh's early patterns.

Its dense colors evoked excessive effort, the weight of matter and the possibility of redemption – still distant –, refracted by hard and thick adversity. Such a vision was organically romantic. The language demonstrated unity and pursued vehemence. Its progress was governed by pain and the spirit of compassion that guided the movements of the brush, and interspersed somber tones with dark colors, alluding to scarcity.


From periphery to center

In turn, the impact of Van Gogh's contact in France with impressionist-symbolist painting became immediately evident in the change of motifs, as well as in the palette – radically renewed in colors –, clearly visible in several canvases elaborated over the course of 1887.[iv]

Spatiality and volumes, which had already been presented since Holland according to the realist tradition, in compact molds and arranged in a short depth – but which were then constructed through the use of chiaroscuro –, gave way to the representation of an ordered spatiality in terms of chromatic and practically close-up. Almost shallow or devoid of depth, these paintings were segmented into horizontal bands that highlighted, in the color contrasts, the pictorial discontinuity.[v]

If Van Gogh's paintings, at the beginning of his French period, already distinguished themselves from those of impressionism – even if under its impact –, this was due to his somewhat vehement brushstrokes. Vehemence, nevertheless, filtered by the restraint of manners, which constituted “the rule of the house” (French).

However, making a difference in the face of the influence of the impressionist program, one could note the impact on Van Gogh of the example of Manet (the latter, much closer, in his language, to Daumier than to the impressionists) – as well as, on another pole, the repercussions of the newcomer's contact with Seurat (1859-1891). This one was striking, perhaps even because of the almost antithetical contrast “in spirit and letter” with Van Gogh's previous painting, practiced in Holland. In addition, the desire for exacerbated chromatic contrasts also distanced Van Gogh from the original core of impressionism, launching him in the direction of the dissidence of the movement: Seurat, Signac (1863-1935), Gauguin (1848-1903).

Since then Van Gogh would be defined by most of his interpreters as one more member of the Symbolist group, canceling out as an outdated issue, for many, his previous identification with the workers.

Thus, in an article from 1890, perhaps the first to boldly distinguish the value of Van Gogh's work, the young symbolist critic Albert Aurier (1865-1892), who would also write about Gauguin[vi] the following year, he distinguished Van Gogh as “an isolated man”. Aurier presented Van Gogh, as Shiff summarized, as “an artist who, in desperate need of spiritual rejuvenation, had freed himself from the material concerns of Western civilization. Van Gogh's art would have (thus) attained the emotional and intellectual purity of the symbol.[vii]

Aurier observed that Van Gogh, by conceiving line and color not as “imitative” but “expressive” elements, and as “symbolization procedures”, had developed “a kind of wonderful language, destined to translate the Idea”.[viii]

The line of interpretation that dissociated Van Gogh from the question of work and emphasized his connection with symbolism continued with Roger Fry (1866-1934) and Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), in the text “The Post-Impressionists”, for the catalog from the 1910 show at Grafton Galleries, London.

The same position was also presented in more recent analyses, such as those by John Rewald (1912-94), Post-Impressionism from Van Gogh to Gauguin (1962), and by Sven Loevgren (1921-80), The Genesis of Modernism (1971). ), which sought to point out “the extent of the identification of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Seurat with the ideas of Symbolist literary figures”.[ix]



However, as we saw (earlier in this chapter) in relation to Cézanne's work, Van Gogh's mature work can be considered through a perspective different from that of symbolism; and in it, then, to find a language other than that of matter converted into Idea, as Aurier wanted.

Thus, according to the impact arising from the military defeat and the extermination of skilled labor in May-June 1871, which allowed for the radical disjunction between intellectual work and bodily work and played a crucial role in the process of capitalist restructuring of labor relations in France, we will see that the work of Van Gogh, parallel and complementary to that of Cézanne, developed aesthetic propositions associated with the objective of rescuing and redeeming manual labor. Moreover, this was a present issue for the author, as we have seen, since his youth.

Among the new aspects that emerged in Van Gogh's painting when he arrived in France, the intensification of the color-sensation dialogue reached, from 1887 onwards, an unprecedented degree among his peers.

The sharp chromatic relations, without transition and based on oppositions, intensified, began to interfere with the eye's work and established themselves in such contrasting terms that one could find here a second case to which the application of the “principle of violent opposition” seemed appropriate. , conceived by Francastel as to Manet. [X]

But not only that was evident. The exacerbation of chromatic effects did not come in isolation. In fact, it added to the strengthening of the impasto and the use of the brushstroke as a structural element of composition – which unfolded and intensified the strategy, initiated by Manet, of legitimizing bodily spontaneity as a productive principle.

Van Gogh's brushstrokes, from 1887-88 onwards, comprising, as a material metaphor, very heavy doses of barely dissolved paint, indicated that he was involved not with ideas and meanings or with the malleability of hyperflexible materials commonly used as vehicles of thought – , brush, ink, canvas, etc. –, but rather facing the opacity of the solid mass, like a worker braving the raw material.


Ax brush, hoe brush, drag brush, firewood brush, scythe brush

Em The Flowering Orchard (Spring 1888, oil on canvas, 72,4 x 53,3 cm, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) by Van Gogh two instruments appear: a scythe and a scythe, both resting at the foot of a tree. The scythe's teeth, each designated by a single brushstroke, give rise to parallels between the traction and effects of the scythe and the brush.

Similarly, in a Van Gogh painting from two years later, Landscape at Twilight (June 1890, oil on canvas, 50,2 x 101 cm, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum), which shows a rural landscape in which a road cuts through cultivated fields, each brushstroke suggesting dealing with some heavy matter, this implying an act physical equivalent of toiling the earth or handling the shovel. Correspondingly, thick amounts of ink, opaque and solid, appear deposited on the canvas. Stacked up and with the roughness of a pile of firewood, challenging the observer to decipher the reason for the excess, they resemble contour lines, of an abrupt and bumpy slope… What would such a pile of materials on the canvas come to?

Quantities of pigment and ink, of contrasting colors and pulsating sparkles – in almost sizable portions – refract the received light (now, not subsumed or veiled, but transformed into force), thus converted into a material effect of the painting, as if the canvas operated like a machine-prototype of the contemporary works of Argentine Julio Le Parc (1928).

In these terms, for those who had eyes for it, a materialist rearticulation of painting took place, that is, a radical change in the notion of pictorial space, now transformed into a support. This, certainly, did not result from the isolated action of a single and isolated man. Like an echo, at the heart of this transformation, the power of living work confronts tragedy, evoking, in its ardor and gestural mime, one might say, the titanic days of the Commune. Indeed, the unique momentum of Van Gogh's brushstrokes, in one way or another, echoes a new “assault on heaven”, according to Marx's expression regarding the heroism of the actions of the Communards, which reminded him of the Greek myth.



From an object of interest or preferred motive, inherited and reworked from the Dutch realist tradition, the bodily power of work became, therefore, for Van Gogh, a fundamental aesthetic principle. Despite living in the middle of the belle époque (a macabre result of social genocide), the painter began to conceive the act of work as the ability to give art its rule (like work in general that it confers on the world as a whole and the all things done in their most effective measure)'.[xi]

This new level, fruit of the reciprocal determination, in an aesthetic scope, of the notions of art and work, provoked in Van Gogh a reflection about art and authorial subjectivity that came to inscribe painting among other practices of transformation of matter through human effort.

In this way, Van Gogh's brushstrokes, in their gallop, lost all resemblance to the impressionist work, which was processed in small and delicate touches on the canvas. Van Gogh's way of painting also abandoned Seurat's strict and intellectualist divisional economy, which had interested him greatly upon his arrival in France, as shown mainly by some canvases from 1887.[xii]

In summary, the reformulation of the practice of painting implied a vigor that evoked almost manual labor. The brushstrokes, delivered with the physical fury of handling a hammer, an ax or a scythe, left furrows on the canvas. Mainly from 1889 onwards, they came from one edge of the canvas to disappear into the other, as if making the painting a mere accident along the way, in the face of greater forces that, from outside the canvas, and irreducible to its forms, seemed to occupy it.[xiii]

Finally, in one way or another, in this unprecedented proposition of painting as a product of bodily effort, there was a marked dissent from the impressionist option of prioritizing optical effects, combined with the cosmetic handling of the brush, according to the illusionist mode of retouching. .

Analogously, the visual action, in the works of Van Gogh, instead of purified from the other faculties, as wanted by opticalism and the doctrine of “pure visuality”, by Fiedler (1841-1895) and others, was synthetically combined with the other faculties. body practices. Vision, detached from the mind and diverted from the paths of the power of abstract imagination, realigned itself to the body, closer to the scale of the arm and step.[xiv] The structure of the visual field, which was broad in impressionism, was reworked in Van Gogh's work as a material and limited field.

In these terms, a significant and concrete step was taken towards the critical overcoming of the historically indeterminate notion of “genius” – once attributed sometimes to Nature, according to Shaftesbury (1671-1713), sometimes to faculties of the transcendental subject, according to Kant (1724). -1804) –, so that, according to the new framework, the content of a historical-social force was obtained.


The living foundation of transformation

In this way, Van Gogh's brushstrokes not only transformed the instruments of pictorial work or the physical body's own value in painting, but also gained, so to speak, the whole, mediating the affective-drive appropriation and the corresponding metamorphosis of things, reaching the trees, the wheat stalks, the growing vegetables, the faces and their affections; and also the currents of wind, the pulsation of the stars, the rhythm of durations…

Projecting itself from the scope of the canvas and the narrated scenes, the work, as it was put by Van Gogh, began in later canvases to radiate unlimitedly through human actions and the cosmos, processing itself, like a Promethean power, as a force transformative and multi-power. That is to say, living work, in its metabolic or energetic origin invoked by Van Gogh, thus emerged concretized and multiplied as a measure and cause, a factor of imagination and reflection.[xv]

In this sense, Van Gogh's brush mimicked, metabolized and transformed bodily forces, synthesizing them with the things of the world. It constituted, therefore, the sensation revealed as work force and translated into productive force.

Finally, in the 1889-90 works, the potential capacity of the workforce to become the foundation of a new historical process of appropriation and transformation of the world was even transmitted to the adventitious forces of death, if we believe in the frank sentiment of a letter to his brother. In it, when commenting on his painting Wheatfield with a Reaper (July-September 1889, oil on canvas, 73,2 x 92,7 cm, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum), the painter noted that the reaper (a surviving figure, probably, of the religious iconography that he knew in his initial period in Holland), evoked on the canvas as an anonymous and faceless turquoise-green figure, with the same opaque color as the sky and in the midst of an radiant golden yellow field – this one, an exuberant synthetic image of work – was, for him, a figure alluding to death. It remains that Van Gogh cosmically summarizes and synthesizes this reaper, as a force related (chromatically) to the sky, as can be seen from the resolute and fearless brushstrokes.[xvi]

Thus, in one way or another, as a metaphor of life and death, encompassing all kinds of transformations, joyful or tragic, Van Gogh's paintings showed nature cut out by the work and, they did so in opposite terms to those of the impressionists, whose painting was, however, tied to the fetish-scene of the bucolic landscape. Let us note, however, that such an opposition is neither simple nor without consequences.


Against the grain of the “belle époque” and the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie

Certainly, the dialectical negativity of Van Gogh's painting (at the same time, as close as it is distant from that of the Impressionists) also brought contents specific to the backward state, at that time, of the Dutch economy. This was not only a latecomer to industrialization, but also guided by the slave system in force in its possessions until 1873! Hence the fundamental ethical centrality, for Van Gogh, of manual work – invested with a kind of pictorial redemption both as a theme and as a practice – as well as the evident and axial value of an iconography impregnated with peasant values.

However, this combination of unequal forms, in which backward economic forms (rural and manual) are articulated with pictorial practices and avant-garde criticism (the latter, born of an economy – the French one – in an accelerated modernization course), two crucial issues stand out in Van Gogh's démarche (of energy or metabolic expenditure): the first is that, although on a different and different level from that of Cézanne's intellectualism, ultimately the two paintings are dialectically unified beyond the differences in their resources and specific terms. Thus, it should be noted, one as the other, both equally realize, and in counterpoint, the sovereign affirmation of the values ​​of living work – the latter (after the massacre of the Commune) denied and condemned by the manu militari annihilation of handicrafts, as a productive practice, hitherto widespread.

In this way, notwithstanding the respective pictorial differences, on the other hand, on the aesthetic level, or art in a broader sense, and with regard to the choice of principle and historical sense, a similarity was presented in terms of the search in art for a future born of denial of alienated work, given as condemnation for all workers, and mass social destiny.

Secondly, such a denial, on the side of Cézanne and on the side of Van Gogh, is in itself and beyond the current moment (that of the “belle époque” or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie), the bearer of an affirmation committed to the refoundation society's politics and ethics; refoundation based, this time, on the values ​​and parameters of living work, of which the two works are emblematic. In this sense, what stands out with all the evidence of Van Gogh's painting is that even the elements – at that time still untouched by human industry – such as the sky and the stars, were transfigured in his painting as products of work.


Heroisms of Sensation

In short, Van Gogh's initial empathy with proletarian life and his ethical appreciation of work finally produced a new significant economy, henceforth based on the materiality of resources and the role of the body as a subject of pictorial enunciation (A gait of Freud would not be far from this path). A few decades later, the (epic) gestural feats of Picasso (post-cubist), André Masson (1896-1987) and Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) would also come to be placed in the wake of the heroisms of sensation, of which the Van Gogh's paintings remain as iconic landmarks.

At the time, in one way or another – and even though in terms at first sight closer to the ways of Cézanne than those of Van Gogh – for Cubists in the next generation, the reciprocal determination (between categories and practices) of painting and of work would already have to be put as explicit data and a model of current action.

It can also be concluded that Tatlin's (1885-1953) “culture of materials”, structured by the dynamic balance of its components, also had (before the Cubist laboratory) its first flash in Van Gogh; fulguration, precisely rooted in the originality of the pathos and new epic, inherent to a “heroism of modern life”, as proposed by Baudelaire (in 1846), just over forty years earlier.

*Luiz Renato Martins he is professor-advisor of PPG in Economic History (FFLCH-USP) and Visual Arts (ECA-USP). Author, among other books, of The Conspiracy of Modern Art (Haymarket/ HMBS).

Extract from the final excerpt of the original version (in Portuguese) of chap. 9, “Painting as a work-form”, from the book La Conspiration de l'Art Moderne et Other Essais, edition and introduction by François Albera, translation by Baptiste Grasset, Lausanne, Infolio (2023, prim. semester, proc. FAPESP 18/26469-9).



[I] See, for example, Van Gogh: Woman Sewing (March-April 1885, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Woman Winding Yarn (March 1885, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); The Potato Eaters (The Potato Eaters, April 1885, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Head of a Woman (March-April 1885, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Review (1884, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts). Note: With the exception of the last one, all the paintings mentioned above, as well as the vast majority of those mentioned below (except the Boston and Dresden paintings), are documented in Richard KENDALL, Van Gogh's van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, eg. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 4.10.1998 – 3.1.1999; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 17.1 – 4.4.1999, New York, Abrams, 1998.

[ii] For a harbinger of the new dynamic organization that was implemented by Van Gogh, when he refounded painting later no longer from a mental perspective, but from the axial role of the body, one can confront the circular dynamism (which characterizes the structure of this canvas) to the monumental circular immobility of The Virgin with Child and the Saints (La Vergine with the Bambino and Santi, ca. 1472/5, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera), by Piero della Francesca (ca. 1416/7 – 1492), given by a geometric structure, which induced the observer, thus disposed, to an attitude of contemplation.

[iii] van gogh read Les Misérables (1862), by Victor Hugo, in the 1870s, and came to reread the book in 1883. See TJ CLARK, The Painting of Modern Life/ Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989, no. 4 to p. 273.

[iv] See, for example, Van Gogh: Self-Portrait with Felt Hat (1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Mother by a Cradle, Portrait of Leonie Rose Davy-Charbuy (March-April 1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Boulevard de Clichy (1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); The Seine with the Pont de la Grande Jatte (summer 1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Banks of the Seine (April-June 1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Restaurant at Asnières/ Exterior of a Restaurant in Asnières (summer 1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Courting Couples in the Voyer d'Argenson Park in Asnières/ Garden with Courting Couples: Square Saint-Pierre (Spring-Summer 1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Trees and Undergrowth (summer 1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); A Park in Spring (1887, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum).

[v] One can comparatively follow the development of the chromatic ordering of the space from the paintings of 1887, cited in the previous note, to the following ones. In the latter, the chromatic notation of volumes and space became increasingly incisive, as well as the pictorial organization according to horizontal compositional axes, signaling discontinuity. See, by Van Gogh: The Flowering Orchard (Spring 1888, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art); wheatfield (June 1888, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); The Harvest (June 1888, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); The Sea at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (June 1888, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Fishing Boats on the Beach at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (June 1888, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); The Yellow House / The Street (September 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam); Wheatfield with a Reaper (July-September 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam); Daubigny's Garden (June 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam); Houses at Auvers (1890, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts); Landscape at Twilight (June 1890, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Wheatfield with Crows (July 1890, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum).

[vi] Cf. A. AURIER, “Le Symbolisme en peinture: Paul Gauguin” (1891), Oeuvres Posthumes, Paris, intr. Rémy de Gourmont, 1893, pp. 211-3, apoud Richard SHIFF, Cézanne and the End of Impressionism/ A Study of the Theory, Technique, and Critical Evaluation of Modern Art, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1986, p. 7 and no. 15 to p. 233.

[vii] See R. SHIFF, on. cit., P. 162. See A. AURIER, “Les Isolés: Vincent Van Gogh” (1890-2), in idem, Oeuvres Posthumes, notice of Rémy de Gourmont, Paris, ed. du Mercure de France, pp. 262-3, apoud shift, Idem, ib., note 1 to p. 280.

[viii] See A. AURIER, “Les Isolés:…, p. 262, apoud R. SHIFF, on. cit. P. 7, no. 23 to p. 234.

[ix] See R. SHIFF, on. cit. P. 159, no. 16-7 on p. 279. See John Rewald, Post-Impressionism from Van Gogh to Gauguin, New York, 1962; Sven Loevgren, The Genesis of Modernism, Bloomington, 1971.

[X] See Pierre Francastel, History of Peinture Française, vol. II, Paris, Mediations/ Gonthier, pp. 108-9.

[xi] According to Kant in “§ 46. Fine art is the art of genius” of Judgment Critique (1790), "Genius it is talent (natural gift) that gives art the rule. Since talent, as the artist's innate productive faculty, itself belongs to nature, we could also express ourselves like this: genius is the innate disposition (ingenious), by which nature gives art the rule.” Cf. Immanuel KANT, Judgment Critique, trans. Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho, in idem Selected Texts, sel. from texts by Marilena Chauí, São Paulo, Os Pensadores/ Abril Cultural, 1980, p. 246. What the parallel seeks to suggest is that, exemplifying a historical change, Van Gogh's painting gave way to the substitution of nature for work, as a paradigm for art.

[xii] See, for example, Van Gogh: Self-Portrait (1886-7, Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago); Courting Couples in the Voyer d'Argenson Park in Asnières/ Garden with Courting Couples: Square Saint-Pierre (spring-summer 1887, op. cit.); Trees and Undergrowth (Summer 1887, op. cit.); A Park in Spring (1887, op. cit.).

[xiii] See, for example, Van Gogh: Quittenstilleben (ca.1888, Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen); The Sower [from Millet] (1889, Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller); A Pair of Leather Clogs (Autumn 1889, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); olive grove (June-July 1889, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); undergrowth (June-July 1889, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Daubigny's Garden (June 1890, op. cit.); ears of wheat (June 1890, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum); Landscape at Twilight (June 1890, op. cit.); Wheatfield with Crows (July 1890, op. cit.).

[xiv] Years before Van Gogh, it can be said that Manet had already moved in this direction by redefining and resizing in physical and tactile terms, in his paintings, the perspective and the sense of depth, according to a point of view put in a bodily way. A similar proposition was suggested by his friend Mallarmé's note about him (freely translated here): “I remember him saying, then, so well: 'The eye, a hand...', that I keep thinking” (“Souvenir, il disait, alors, si bien: 'L'oeil, une main..' that je resonge). See Stéphane MALLARMÉ, “Édouard Manet” in ramblings, in idem, Igitur, Divagations, Un Coup de Dés, pref. d'Yves Bonnefoy, Paris, (Poésie) Gallimard, 1976, p. 160.

[xv] Argan explained the passage of Van Gogh's painting, from the themes of “social polemics”, to a new stylistic level, not in terms of abandoning the socialist ideology for the Symbolist one, as the Symbolist and Formalist critics understood, but rather as a synthesis: “ In contact with the cutting-edge French movements, he (Van Gogh) understood that art should not be an instrument, but an agent for transforming society and (…) the experience that man has of the world. Art must insert itself into general activism as an active force, however with the opposite sign: a scintillating discovery of truth against the growing tendency towards alienation and mystification. The technique of painting must also change, oppose the mechanical technique of industry, as a do ethics of man against do machine mechanic. It is no longer a matter of representing the world superficially or profoundly: each sign by Van Gogh is a gesture with which he faces reality in order to capture and appropriate its essential content, life. That life that bourgeois society, with its alienating work, extinguishes in man”. Cf. GC ARGAN, Modern Art / From the Enlightenment to Contemporary Movements, pref. Rodrigo Naves, trans. Denise Bottmann and Federico Carotti, São Paulo, Cia das Letras, 1993, pp. 124-5; L'Arte Moderna/ 1770/1970, Firenze, Sansoni, 1981, pp. 157-8. In another text, in which he analyzes Van Gogh's painting, also in the light of the idea of ​​non-alienated work, Argan observed: “...the colored signs no longer follow the contours or planes of the represented figure and object, but rhythms and cadences of a psychosomatic dynamism of the artist. His pictorial mode is not only the opposite of the mechanism of industrial work, but also of artisanal, designed and controlled operation (…)”. Cf. GC Argan, “L'Arte del XX Secolo”, in idem, From Hogarth to Picasso/ L'Arte Moderna in Europa, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1983, p. 387.

[xvi] “I see in him the image of death, in the sense that humanity can be the wheat he is mowing (…). But there is nothing sad about this death, it goes on its way, in broad daylight, with the sun flooding everything, with a light of pure gold.” Cf. Vincent VAN GOGH, “Letter 604”, in Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, London, 1958, reprint. 1991, p. 202, apoud Richard KENDALL, Van Gogh's van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, eg. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 4.10.1998 – 3.1.1999; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 17.1 – 4.4.1999, New York, Abrams, 1998, pp. 119-20.

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  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones