Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Nude Woman, Reclining" (1887) by Vincent van Gogh

Painted in Paris, this is one of three paintings of female nudes by van Gogh. The reclining nude pose and setting are traditional, but van Gogh's execution of the painting creates a compelling dissonance.

The oval shape of the canvas embraces the figure. The exaggerated contour line of the hip, and shape of the stomach complement the overall form. Similarity of feeling in soft luminous color and short, feather-like gestures of brush strokes, describe pillows and linens. A sliver of scarlet supports the bottom of the composition placing the floor of the scene in the viewer's space. Complementary vertical strokes of blue push the background away from the figure. Richly colored short strokes of paint describe the figure's shape while a contrasting quality of pointed and curved shapes describe it with a hovering tension. A weightiness in the downward curving contours of the bed creates dissonance while the line of the hip pulls upward. The viewer is drawn into the picture and simultaneously pushed away.


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