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Vincent Van Gogh

By changing form and exaggerating colour he sought to achieve a tragic intensity and heightened expressiveness, introducing profoundly personal feelings into his depiction of the world around him. "Instead of trying to reproduce precisely what is before my eyes," the artist wrote, "I use colour more freely, and this helps me to express myself more precisely." In a single glance the master embraces his chosen motif and with dynamic brushstrokes, often squeezing the paint straight onto the canvas from the tube, he transfers to the canvas not so much what he has seen, as his feeling of the world; the expression in the painting conveys the artist's violent temperament.

Before his death Van Gogh could rightly say: "Well, I have paid with my life for my work, and it cost me half my reason." It is not surprising that Alexander Benois called this great artist "a martyr of the idea".

The lessons of Impressionism, which were one of Van Gogh's points of departure, found fundamentally different embodiment in the work of the Neo-Impressionists. The artists of this trend used scientific methods in an attempt to find theoretical proof for the discoveries of Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. Basing their argument on the theory of the scientists Helmholtz and Chevreuil, the leaders of Neo-Impressionism, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and Henri- Edmond Cross, elaborated their own system of interacting spectrum colours. They began to work in tiny dot-like strokes of pure colour based on a precisely calculated relationship between adjacent and contrasting, warm and cold tones. At a distance the dots merged together creating the optical impression of one colour merging into another. However, the narrowness of the tasks set and the strictness of the "system", which restricted creative, meant that this artistic method was short-lived.