It is not easy to review paintings; it is even harder to review paintings of a master like Vincent Van Gogh. Robin Rice did it in City Paper, with a fresh angle of observation and an informative review of a professional.
Many times have I read pieces on Van Gogh’s paintings; many times they fall into cliché. Rice’s review is different.
For one, Rice knows that most of the readers who want read about Van Gogh are somehow familiar with some of the symbolic paintings and the twisted personal life of him. So Rice chose to avoid reiterating the known facts. She picked some unique elements in Van Gogh’s paintings and the influences that Van Gogh received, which lead to his creation of these elements.
Second, in a short piece like this one, Rice maximizes her possibility to make readers gravitate toward Van Gogh’s exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She uses her professional critique to lead readers to two elements in Van Gogh’s paintings – Japanese compositional device of creating layers and the Impressionism of his dashed, parallel brushstroke.
Rice uses illustrative language to make it easier for non-painter readers to understand, for example, “a flattened, aerial perspective that tilts the ground up toward a high horizon line; elements cut off by the edges of the picture; foreground images acting as a screen in front of a background scene.” She also gave examples of some of the paintings that use this device. Once readers understand the concept, they want to see more and they will have a desire to go and analyze his paintings on their own. For me, this is the best effect an art review can achieve, intentionally or not.
– Text by Ning Shao. Image via City Paper.