Dutch-born American artist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) and Van Gogh both wanted to express the essence of an image using colour and brushwork. De Kooning’s work sometimes appears to be abstract, but it was always based on reality.
Van Gogh found a great deal of inspiration in nature. Using thick brushstrokes and bright colours, he attempted to capture the feelings that nature called forth in him on his canvases. This sometimes resulted in expressive, almost abstract paintings, such as Tree Roots. With works like these, Van Gogh cleared the way for numerous modern and abstract artists who followed him, including De Kooning.
Montauk Beach on Long Island (New York) inspired De Kooning to create a series of paintings, such as the work shown above. De Kooning shared Van Gogh’s belief that it was more important to express the feeling that a landscape called forth in him than to depict how the landscape actually looked. De Kooning used form, colour and paint to translate his feeling onto the canvas. References to the beach, sun and sea can be discerned in the colours.
‘I'm not interested in 'abstracting' or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and colour. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it – drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space’. - Willem de Kooning
In his painting, Van Gogh used a similar approach to emphasise the moody feeling of the craggy branches and roots. He painted the tree roots from very close by. Due to the lack of horizon and depth, the work appears to be almost abstract.
Van Gogh inspires
Van Gogh still inspires artists from all corners of the globe. His choice of subject, brushwork and sense of style fire the imaginations of generations of modern and contemporary artists. A work by such an artist is on display at the Van Gogh Museum throughout the year, often together with a work by Van Gogh.