Still Life à la cafetière

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life à la cafetière, Still Life with Coffee Pot, May 1888, Oil on Canvas, 65 × 81 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The three primary colours, red, blue yellow, a touch of orange… and how you can create a masterpiece! Still Life à la cafetière in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, at Athens, is a case to study!!!

“Painting Still Lifes is the beginning of everything,” Van Gogh said back in the winter of 1884/85, and as Dutch in origin, he was so right! Let’s not forget the Netherlandish attachment to this genre. During his prolific career that did not last more than a decade, from 1881 until his death in 1890, Van Gogh painted more than 170 Still Lifes! https://www.museum-barberini.com/en/van-gogh/

He started by “paying tribute” to his Dutch, 17th-century tradition of painting Still Lifes with sombre, melancholy, earthy tones. We can describe these early Still Life paintings as experiments in colour! Direct, powerful, and sincere, these early Still Life studies were created while living with his parents in Nuenen. Across a dark background, he used humble everyday objects that were probably used by his family for their everyday meals. By mixing primary colours himself, his palette was dark, brown and greyish, and the objects he was presenting were brought to life with touches of white paint. His painting, titled Still life with three bottles and earthenware, is a perfect example. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0138V1962?v=1

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life with three bottles and earthenware, 1884/5, oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

That was not enough for Van Gogh! He felt the need to develop and evolve, to practice and struggle in getting better… and so, he travels to Paris, gets in touch with Impressionism, and his Still Life paintings gradually acquire the bright Mediterranean colours of Southern France, which he so loved. Painting Still Lifes during the Paris period is very important for him. He studies every book he can get on the fundamentals of “Colour Theory” and experiments until his colour palette dramatically changes. He doesn’t mix colours any more, he uses them separately, he combines complementary colours and gets rid of the use of browns. In Paris, painting flowers fascinates him, changing his technique intrigues him, communicating his feelings as well as what he sees becomes his objective. The newly authenticated Vase with Poppies at the Wadsworth Atheneum is such a representative example of his efforts at the time. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/blog/two-van-gogh-exhibitions-in-a-single-week

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Vase with Poppies, ca. 1886, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum, 56.0 cm × 46.5 cm, Hartford, Connecticut

Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles in early 1888, and his palette positively explodes with colour and vibrant brushstrokes. The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation painting Still Life à la cafetière is an amazing example of his final period. Quoting a description of the painting in a Van Gogh letter to his brother Theo, we read… “A coffee pot in blue enamel, a cup (on the left) royal blue and gold, a milk jug checkered light blue and white, a cup (on the right) white with blue and orange patterns on a plate of earthenware yellow-grey, a pot of barbotine or majolica blue with red, green, brown patterns, finally two oranges and three lemons; the table is covered with a blue cloth, the background yellow-green, thus six different blues and four of five yellows and oranges.” The art of simplicity at it’s best. Once more, dispassionate items of his everyday life, search for immediacy and turn into a moving painting of extraordinary vitality. The three primary colours, lots of blues and greens, an amazing red borderline that encloses the painting, juxtapose to “touches” of complementary oranges. A diagonal composition with crossed lines animates the composition. Incredible brushstrokes forcefully convene in the enamel coffee pot, creating a sense of perspective. He works like a man in a frenzy and creates a world, his world, that feels ALIVE! Color, Space, and Creativity: Art and Ontology in Five British Writers, by Jack Stewart, 2008, Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., page 224, and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/vincent-van-gogh-still-life-coffee-pot

For a Student Activity, please… check HERE!

The Magic of the Olive Tree

Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890
Olive Picking, 1889, oil on canvas, 73.5 × 92.5 cm, Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The Magic of the Olive Tree inspired so much Vincent Van Gogh that while in Saint-Remy-de Provence in 1889, he painted at least 15 paintings depicting their beauty! The same magic inspired our wonderful Pinewood Kindergarten Teacher… who organized a Unit to remember!

“The Kindergarten theme on Olives began with the intention of it being a transdisciplinary unit so that the children would learn many facets about it. It was introduced in a simple way – when the children reached the letter O in the English alphabet they decided to remember this letter sound by saying ‘O is for olive’… From there they learned that olives are fruit and that they grow on Olive Trees in Greece. Inspired by short videos showing how olives are picked in late Autumn, the children took a sheet, a stick and a basket and went olive picking on the school grounds. They hit the branches of the school Olive Trees and collected the fruit that fell… So enthusiastic about what they did they decided to capture their experience by making their very own olive tree grove Bulletin Board.”

Pinewood Kindergarten students “listened in awe as they travelled back into mythological times, to when Athena bestowed the gift of an Olive Tree to the Athenians. This helped the children understand what a treasure the Olive Tree is because of all the various gifts that it gives: wood (for heat, furniture), oil ( for cooking, eating, light, fuel) and soap… They tasted both green and black olives, they washed their hands with olive soap, they lit an oil-lamp with olive oil and they made olive bread… They created olive wreaths by counting card leaves and plasticine olives to a given number and learned that in ancient times an olive wreath, just like the ones they had made, were placed on the heads of champion athletes.”

Finally, students “realized how thankful they are for this humble fruit and all it provides. So when it came to Thanksgiving Day the children chose to honour the Olive Tree by writing their messages of thanks inside their olive wreaths and entitling their display, ‘In Greece, we are thankful for Olive Trees’.”

Kindergarten student Bulletin Board Art photographed by Kostas Papantoniou

“O is for Olive” is the amazing Lesson Plan prepared by the school’s Kindergarten Teacher, Mrs. Anna Maria Mathias, with assistance provided by Mrs. Kathy Lekkas. The PowerPoint photos that follow HERE! were taken by the school’s photographer, Mr. Kostas Papapatoniou.

For the purposes of this BLOG, The Magic of the Olive Tree, “teachercurator” put together a PowerPoint on Van Gogh and paintings of Olive Trees… please check HERE!

The new Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens has a wonderful Vincent Van Gogh painting of Olive Picking from his 1889 period. Apparently, Van Gogh painted “three versions of this picture. He described the first as a study from nature “more coloured with more solemn tones” (in the Goulandris Collection) and the second as a studio rendition in a “very discreet range” of colours (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).” The third painting is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and accordingly is “the most resolved and stylized of the three.” The third painting was “intended for his sister and mother, to whom Van Gogh wrote: “I hope that the painting of the women in the olive trees will be a little to your taste—I sent [a] drawing of it to Gauguin… and he thought it good… ” https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436536 and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/vincent-van-gogh-olive-picking