Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890): Portrait of Père Tanguy

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890): Portrait of Père Tanguy

10/12/2021, 10:23:13 AM
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890): Portrait of Père Tanguy, Autumn 1887, Paris, Oil on canvas, 92 x 75 cm, Musée Rodin, Paris The sitter in this portrait by Van Gogh was Julien François Tanguy (1825 - 1894), a paint merchant and also an art dealer, one of the first to offer Van Gogh's paintings for sale. His jovial demeanor and enthusiasm for artistry and artists made his shop one of the most favored art supply shops in Paris, and he was nicknamed Père ("Father") Tanguy. The shop had become a kind of gallery of paintings, for Tanguy would take paintings on deposit as credit for the painting materials he supplied. Van Gogh painted three portraits of Père Tanguy in 1887, two of which against a background composed of Japanese colour woodcuts which he had begun to collect, firstly in Antwerp and then more avidly in Paris. Tanguy is placed massively in the centre of the canvas, facing the spectator. But the Paris merchant is presented not against an urban setting, but in an imaginary context composed of Japanese seasonal scenes and costumed figures. Although this choice of background indicates Van Gogh's evident preoccupation with Japanese prints, the painting does not indicate any profound influence of Japanese graphic styles or perspectival devices upon his work. But it is important to note that the motifs represented in the prints anticipate those that Van Gogh would shortly resume when he left Paris and moved once again into a more rural setting - seasonal landscapes and portraits of regional types in costume. In these Japanese paintings Van Gogh also found serenity, which he described in a letter to his sister during this period, "Having as much of this serenity as possible, even though one knows little – nothing – for certain, is perhaps a better remedy for all diseases than all the things that are sold at the chemist's shop." In an effort to capture serenity in his painting, he painted Tanguy with a calm, contemplative nature. The brightly colored painting and confident subject represent a shift in Vincent's attitude. Van Gogh called his use of bright colours "gymnastics" that through experimentation created great depth, harmony and balance in his work.

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