Sunday, November 30, 2014

Van Gogh's "Stillleben mit gelbem Strohhut" ("Still Life with Yellow Straw Hat")

We are all familiar with van Gogh's masterpieces like "Starry Night", "Sunflowers" and his self-portraits, but Vincent van Gogh was an incredibly prolific artist who painted dozens of still life canvases as well as his more famous landscape and portraiture subjects. In the painting "Still Life with Yellow Straw Hat", we see that the artist has chosen objects that came easily to hand, including the hat off his head and his pipe. Grouping these together with the pots and bottle in the background makes a pleasant repetition of curved and rounded shapes, which compliment the squared, angular shapes of the matchbox and the table, as well as the object to the right that looks for all the world like a miniature bale of hay...your guess is as good as mine.

Of course, the straw hat is the star, being front and center in placement, as well as being the largest single object in the picture and a brightly-colored one, as well. The matchbox is as vibrant a yellow, but in a much smaller size and in a more secondary placement. But what really draws the eye to the hat is the use of strong contrast--the black band against the yellow body of the hat creates a snappy focal point that commands attention. Once the eye is drawn initially, the viewer then wanders around the rest of the painting, noting the different shapes and textures. The overall color scheme is warm oranges, yellows, and browns, which lend a cozy feeling. Loose brushwork also lends a rather casual, but comfortable, air. Van Gogh's painting shows that you can depict very common subjects, yet still make them quite interesting and inviting!

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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