Art, Artist, Legacy, In Film

Joanne Artman Gallery
Jul 20, 2018 1:54PM

It is a common and often true belief that historically following an artist’s death, the value of their artwork goes up. Retrospective exhibitions are organized, and collectors as well as dealers move swiftly to acquire prized works that are left in the artist’s studio. Some artists, such as Van Gogh, do not gain recognition of their contribution to art until well past their death. There is an allure in the tragedy of the under appreciated, misunderstood and underestimated genius, a sense of reverence that over time grows into a cult of personality. On one hand, there is the body of work created over the course of the artist’s lifetime, and on the other – a personal mythology that is built over time by art historians, through letters, remembrances, postcards, and photographs that propel the legacy and impact of an artist into the future.

This is especially pertinent to the artists known as the fathers or grandfathers of modern art, working in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. There exist endless books, articles and memoirs dedicated to dissecting their personas, delving into the details, and often, romanticizing their personality defects as the eccentricities of genius. However, for the contemporary audience there are the films. These stories fit well on the big screen and, for many, are the perfect Art History 101 to the essential magic, glitter and drama of late 19th- early 20thcentury France, where the metamorphosis of modern art coalesced with the energy of Industrialization, and the romance of café society.

Here are two of the most recent films that attempt to pierce the veil around these characters, bringing their life and work to the big screen to a varying level of success:

Paul Gaugin, Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892

Gaugin: Voyage to Tahiti, 2018

It is often difficult to disassociate the artist’s work from them as a person, and that is especially true in the case of Paul Gaugin. Many an argument has been made to contextualize the artist’s questionable actions during his long-term residency in Polynesia. During this time the artist took multiple pre-pubescent native girls as wives, a common practice of European men at the time. Purchased in much the same way as slave labor, these girls also served as housekeepers, caretakers, as well as models for his work at this time. The paintings from this period are some of Gaugin’s most celebrated. The film presents a forgiving portrayal of the artist, and attempts to moralize the artist’s action, by not addressing any uncomfortable issues directly, effectively attempting to rewrite history.  

Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait,1889

Loving Vincent, 2017

A masterful biopic of the troubled artist, Loving Vincent is also the world’s first fully oil painted animated feature length film. The film was inspired by Van Gogh’s letters to his brother, and takes the viewer on a harrowing ride into the events surrounding his death. Unlike Gaugin: Voyage to Tahiti, the film does not attempt to hide, erase, or re-write any of the facts of Van Gogh’s life, instead utilizing historical documents and other resources to create an objective picture of the artist. Most importantly, the filmmakers used a painstaking process of drawing the film frame by frame in the artist’s own unique style, animating masterpieces by the artist as part of the unfolding story, and truly bringing the artist and his world to life.

                                Writen by JoAnne Artman Gallery  ||

Joanne Artman Gallery