Vincent Van Gogh was a prolific artist in the 19th century. His impressionist forms were influenced by his close collaborations with artists such as Mantic, Gauguin, Lautrec and Cezanne. Van Gogh had a difficult childhood this was attributed to his lack of proper socialization in early childhood. Van Gogh tried his luck in selling art, preaching and book-keeping. Van Gogh had no success in the choice of careers that had been laid out for him by his parents. This added to his troubles. All three career choices failed and he was later inclined to reconsider painting (Gayford, 2008). Van Gogh was born during the Franco-Prussian War which took a toll on the economy of France. This affected the financial stability of France.
These difficulties weighed heavily on Van Gogh’s. As a result, he developed emotional and mental difficulties. His emotional troubles were often reflected in his art pieces. Consequently, one of Van Gogh’s pieces exhibit vibrancy and color, that indicate moments of hyper activity and joy. On the contrary, other pieces are dark this was a period of gloom and depression for Van Gogh. There is a possibility that Van Gogh’s emotional state can be attributed to bipolar disorder, or manic depression (Gayford, 2008).
Sommers (2003) explains manic depression as a mental disorder that enables one to experience moments of extreme joy and hyperactivity. However, after a short period of time, the individual suddenly becomes downcast and unhappy. This disorder normally affects highly creative individuals who, in most cases, proceed to create ingenious works of art.
In this section of the paper, I would like to analyze Van Gogh’s personality using his The Yellow House and the house-tree-person test since exactly these objects are painted in the picture.
The house-tree-person test is a personality test that with the help of an individual’s drawings and his or her subsequent responses to questions reveals various aspects of the personality. Before passing the test, a person is provided with three separate sheets of paper with words a house, a tree, and a person written on them (Knoff, 2003, p. 217). Firstly, a person is required to draw a house. The examiner gives the following instructions.
Take one of these pencils please. I want you to draw me as good a picture of a house as you can. You may draw any kind of house you like, it will not be counted against you. And you may take as long as you wish. Just draw me as good a house as you can. (Knoff, 2003, p. 217)
Them the examiner gives the same instructions for the tree and person drawings. When a person finishes the task, he or she is asked questions about the pictures. As an example, the examiner can ask if an individual has drawn a familiar or just an abstract person, how he or she feels about the tree in the picture, what house is associated with the one drawn on the sheet of paper, and so on. Then, considering both the character of drawings and an individual’s responses to questions, particular conclusions about his or her personality can be made.
House in this test is a symbolic interpretation of a person’s relationships with his or her surroundings (Knoff, 2003). It can tell about both the relations with an individual’s family and close friends. As for Van Gogh’s painting, first of all, he drew the house he once lived in. According to Gayford (2008), in May 1888, Van Gogh decided to rent the right-hand part of the house. As it can be seen in the painting, this part of the building looks differently than any other – it has green shutters on the windows, which is why it contrasts with the rest of the picture. In this house, Vincent had finally found some good friends and was not only painting but communicating as well (Gayford, 2008). Moreover, Van Gogh and his friend Gauguin wanted to transform the building into an artists’ house where artists could work together (Gayford, 2008). That is why some parts of the house are drawn in yellow, bright colors – they show that Vincent was excited about this house and his friend Gauguin (Gayford, 2008).
The tree is supposed to reveal “deeper and more unconscious feelings” a person has about his or her own self (Knoff, 2003, p. 218). The way how the artist has drawn the bark of the tree, in vine-like vertical lines and heavy dark colors, shows his emotional aloofness, anxiety, and solitude (Knoff, 2003, p. 221). Besides, no roots can be seen, which says that the person is not grounded and feels insecure. So, although the artist was excited about this particular period in his life, he still felt some emptiness and solitude.
As for the drawing of a person, it shows a “closer-to-conscious” feeling about the examinee’s self (Knoff, 2003, p. 221). However, The Yellow House has several persons on it, so it is impossible to find out which one of them represents the artist.
Psychological and esthetic analysis
The painting is full of life as the choice of colors, bright yellow and deep blue. This represents a joyful period in the artist’s life. Van Gogh’s early childhood was a far-cry from what he represented in the painting. This art is impressionist. According to Gayford (2008), the Yellow House comprised of white-washed walls, flower decorations as well as Japanese wall illustrations. The house was set under an incredibly blue sky. It has been hypothesized that the description of the white-washed walls of the house was actually a symbolic representation of Van Gogh’s empty life. The colorful representation of the house describes the positivity that Van Gogh bore upon the start of their living together with his fellow friend and painter, Gauguin (Gayford, 2008).
Historical time and space
The Yellow House was located in Arles, south of France. The choice of the house is based on his dream of starting the ‘Studio of the South’ when he visited Arles in February 1888. He rented the house on May, 1888 and waited for Gauguin to move in with him later on the year, October 1888. Van Gogh recreated his dream house and had finally found someone to relate with in Gauguin. The two artists had a lot in common and they both admired and respected each other’s work (Gayford, 2008).
Gayford, M. (2008). The yellow house: Van Gogh, Gauguin and nine turbulent weeks in Provence. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Knoff, H. M. (2003). The Assessment of Child and Adolescent Personality. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Rappaport, L. (2009). Focusing-oriented art therapy: Accessing the body’s wisdom and creative intelligence. London, England: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Sommers, M. (2003). Everything you need to know about bipolar disorder and manic-depressive illness. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.