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Comparison of Van Gogh and Zora Neale Hurston

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Essay title: Comparison of Van Gogh and Zora Neale Hurston

In the early 1900’s, African American literature, art, dance, and social commentary began to flourish in Harlem and this cultural movement became known as the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem Renaissance was more than just a movement but exalted the unique African-American culture and redefined African-American expression. During Post-Impressionism, the artists used vivid colors, thick applications of paint, distinctive brushstrokes, and real subject matter. This movement also leaned towards a more spiritual and expressive approach and wanted to add emotion and symbolic meaning to the art. These two radically different movements had a different way of looking at art and literature, but if were to compare the aesthetic concept from the Harlem Renaissance and Post-Impressionism, we might think of Vincent Van Gogh and Zora Neale Hurston. Writers and artists had their own forms of expressing thought and concerns but these two “artists” share a common interest for the common people and/or poor peasant people. Van Gogh was famous for his “Starry Night” and “La chambre de Van Gogh a Arles,” but we might not be familiar with his first works he painted as a new developing artist. “Potato Eaters”, which was heavily painted with mud-colored tones, attempted to represent the life of the poor eating potatoes in a poorly dim lit room wearing rag-like clothes. Hurston portrays the life of a poor black woman living with an adulterous and abusive husband in her short story, “Sweat.” The heavy southern dialect that is present in the story made the story more credible for the readers to understand the life of the poor black woman. Though these are one of the similarities between these two “artists,” they are other factors that make them similar in their aesthetic concepts.

Van Gogh was a man who was not known for his proportional figures or his realistic drawings. Instead he was known for his unique brush strokes and use of colors and his expressive style of painting. Van Gogh was a self-taught artist that was influenced by other artists. As a new upcoming artist, Van Gogh’s paintings were very dark and mostly used earth tones until Cezanne, Degas and other Impressionist painters influenced him. Van Gogh observed the use of light and color the other Impressionist painters used in their paintings and Van Gogh started to lighten up in his paintings. Van Gogh also began to use the unique brushstrokes that were apparent during that time.

An author during the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston, was not famous for her works until a few years after her death. She was not noticed for her works but most of her writings were influenced by her academic experiences and her stylistic choices were heavy African American dialect. In Hurston’s short story, “Sweat”, the strong African American dialect is apparent throughout the novel. For example, we see the strong African American dialect in paragraph 4, “Sykes, what you throw dat whip on me like dat? You know it would skeer me- looks just like a snake, an’ you knows how skeered Ah is of snakes (Hurston, 53).” The dialogue made the story credible and the readers were able to understand Hurston’s purpose of including the dialect in most of her novels.

Both of these “artists” wanted to depict real life into their works. Van Gogh was a man who studied from life and was not a strong supporter of drawing from memory. In Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo, he claims that he is “in the matter of form too afraid of departing from the possible and the true (Coursepack II, 7).” Van Gogh admits that it is a possibility that he might not work from life but his attention is more into real subject matter as he states in his letters to Theo.

I don’t mean I won’t do it after another ten years of painting studies, but,

to tell the honest truth, my attention is so fixed on what is possible and

really exists that I hardly have the desire or the courage to strive for the

ideal as it might result from my abstract studies (Coursepack II, 7).

Van Gogh states in his letters, that it might be a possibility that he might change his strong belief of working from life. Van Gogh seems to be more focused about reality and that he doesn’t have any desire for the “ideal.” He admits that he might have exaggerated or made some of the colors in his studies like his Irises he painted from memory but he still prefers to work real subject matter. Van Gogh even refused to “sign his study” because he worked from memory. Zora Neale Hurston like Van Gogh depicted the real life of an African American during the late 1900’s. Hurston wanted to show the readers the “real life” of the black people during the late 1900’s. For Hurston, it wasn’t much about recognition

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