Painting, Oil on Canvas by Vincent van Gogh, Paris: July – December, 1886 currently in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe.
Shoes were a still life subject that Van Gogh painted a number of times and they have fascinated people ever since. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger in “The Origin of the Work of Art” based on a series of lectures he wrote and delivered in the 1930’s and finally published in 1950 explains the essence of art in terms of the concepts of being and truth. He argues that art is not only a way of expressing the element of truth in a culture, but the means of creating it and providing a springboard from which “that which is” can be revealed. Heidegger referenced the 1886 Van Gogh painting of peasant shoes in his essay and the painting has been the subject of many debates on art and life since. (Hutchings, 2012)
These works are also often interpreted as a study of Van Gogh’s life, because to many observers the shoes with their worn leather and tired soles represent the travails of Van Gogh himself and the weathered journey he endured. If we pause to consider, it is of course true that, unlike other still life subjects, shoes have been to all the places and have experienced all that the owner has, in that sense they reflect an individuals personal history and it is that thought that is at the core of the In Step project.
This pair of very old and worn boots reminded me very much of the subject Van Gogh chose for his 1886 painting and for some light relief I decided to recreate my own “painted” version in Photoshop. The original capture is above and the processed image below. I have no idea how long it would have taken Van Gogh to have created his original but the conversion from the photographic image to the stylised effect using the oil painting filter took but a few seconds.
To be clear I generally dislike such Photoshop manipulations as I think if you want a painting you should engage a painter and not a photographer to create it. Plus although there are various sophisticated controls to be manipulated in creating the effect the digital rendition is somehow too regular compared to the more natural free form of real brush strokes. This I feel is due in part because one of the hardest things to create in computing is true randomness.
Shoes were a subject Van Gogh returned to a number of times between 1886 and 1888 and here are a number of other shoe images by Van Gogh:
A Pair of Shoes Painting, Oil on Canvas, Vincent van Gogh, Arles: August, 1888
The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, New York, United States of America, North America
A Pair of Shoes Painting, Oil on Canvas, Vincent van Gogh, Paris: early 1887
The Baltimore Museum of Art Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America, North America
A Pair of Shoes Painting, Oil on Canvas, Vincent van Gogh, Paris: Spring, 1887
Three Pairs of Shoes Painting, Oil on Canvas, Vincent van Gogh, Paris: December, 1886
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, North America
A Pair of Shoes Painting, Oil on Paper on Cardboard, Vincent van Gogh, Paris: January – June, 1886
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
Further information on Van Gogh can be found in this post under Still Life.