I am a fan of Vincent Van Gogh and am always surprised when I come across a Van Gogh painting that I can’t remember seeing, especially one that has that powerful quality for which his work is known. Such was the case when I stumbled across this painting. It’s called Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate) and was painted in 1890, just a couple of months before his death.
His signature use of line is evident here, especially in the way he uses the color blue to outline the old man. the man and the chair have a completeness while the floor and the background are sparsely painted, almost not there. It’s a bit of a departure from some of his better known pieces which are densely colored throughout but it focuses the energy of the painting completely on the old man’s sorrowful posture. Its simple elegance makes for a strong and moving image.
This painting was based on an earlier drawing made by Van Gogh in 1882. During that year and the one before, Van Gogh had done a number of drawings of men and women in states of sadness or exhaustion as he was learning to make lithographs. It is beautifully rendered and has all of the same power of the final painting.
However, for me, Van Gogh’s signature use of color in the painting is what makes the painting much more memorable and moving. The painting is so recognizable as being his that it carries the cache of his entire body of work, links into the continuum of energy that runs through his paintings.
I am glad I stumbled across this treasure. While I don’t paint in the manner of Van Gogh, I find there is almost always something to be learned, always something that can be applied to my own when studying his work. I think I will look at this a bit longer.