Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Van Gogh the Salesman

Separating the work of Van Gogh from the acres of verbiage devoted to the tragic legend of unappreciated genius is no easy task. Critics, journalists and film-makers have created a romanticised and mostly invented picture of a solitary artist mentally wrestling with demons through which all Van Gogh’s drawings and paintings are filtered. This crude characterisation leaves little room for consideration of Van Gogh’s many artistic subtleties and exposes the work to popular exploitation. Advertisers have noted that Van Gogh has just about the highest level of public recognition of any artist with two key facts, the saga of the missing ear and the suicide in the fields. This trio of examples is not especially tasteless despite an attempt to comment on the artist’s self-inflicted lack of stereo hearing. Gentle parody is as far as it goes but equally, none are especially inventive in their use of the artist’s image. There’s a school of thought that any use of Fine Art imagery in advertising is a desecration but that seems excessively narrow minded given the free use that artists have made of advertising imagery over the past half-century.

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