The Kingfisher

The Kingfisher

"A sharp call draws out its strident note; The kingfisher, speeding on burning wing, A furtive streak of emerald and fire."
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Details:
Painting Date
22nd of July 1886
Painting Type
Oil on Canvas Paintings
Detailed Image Links
Description:

Vincent probably painted the Kingfisher in the second half of 1886 in Paris, we cannot know exactly as he never refers to the work in his letters.  It is an oil on canvas study of a bird perched on a reed seen and portrayed from close up.  Vincent’s chosen color palette is lighter than the harmonious browns of the northern Dutch schools of painting, but not quite as light as it will become in the months ahead.

 

He captures the bird in a still pose and uses cooler palette colors and a variety of brushstrokes to accomplish it.  The bird sits on a yellow green diagonal stroke of a reed with a pond in the background of lateral shades of blue.  The stalks, leaning from bottom left to middle right, and the posture and gaze of the bird give the viewer a close up of a hunter lying in wait and in a moment of intent stillness before he seizes his moment and strikes.

 

At this time, Vincent has lived in Paris for about six months and is working alongside Henri de Toulouse Lautrec and Louis Anquetin at the Cormon Atelier in Paris. He is beginning to appreciate the techniques and canvases of the impressionists of the past decade who have risen to fame (Monet, Degas, Renoir, et. al.).  He will soon meet and paint with Paul Signac and Emile Bernard along the banks of the Seine in the coming Spring and Summer of 1887 as colors and varied brushstrokes are employed and Vincent hones his talent.  He signs this work in red with a diagonal Vincent at bottom left – – he does not like the way his friends mispronounce his last name (Gogh rhymes with “cough” in Dutch).  He echoes the red of his signature in the stalks at bottom right.

 

The Related Item is a drawing by Vincent, done in Nuenen, the Netherlands in March of 1884, at least two years before his Paris painting of the Kingfisher.  In the drawing, he uses pencil, pen and brush in brown ink (originally black), heightened with opaque white paint, on wove paper to create the scene with the diving Kingfisher over a reeded pond.  The Compare One and Two images show photographs of Kingfishers alongside Vincent’s renditions.

 

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“Autumn” by Jules Breton, quoted by Vincent in a letter to Anthon van Rappard:

 

From time to time, a thrush’s thin repeated cry,
And plunging from an overhanging bough,
A jewel sparkles in the clear blue air;
A sharp call draws out its strident note;
The kingfisher, speeding on burning wing,
A furtive streak of emerald and fire.

To Anthon van Rappard. Nuenen, on or about Saturday, 8 March 1884

 

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Vincent writes his brother from the Netherlands:

 

“For this month I have some pen drawings for you; in the first place the ones that are with Rappard at the moment — about which I have a letter from him that he thought they were all beautiful, and the sentiment in Behind the hedgerows and the Kingfisher particularly beautiful.”

 

To Theo. Nuenen, on or about Thursday, 20 March 1884

 

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Painting, Oil on Canvas – 26.6 cm x 19.1 cm
Paris: July – December, 1886
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 28; JH: 1191

Where Vincent Was:
Paris

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