The painting Girl in the Woods is one of Vincent Van Gogh’s earlier works, completed in 1882. It is reminiscent of his youth in the city of Zundert when he would go to the woods in moments he wanted to be alone. His main wish for this landscape was to provoke reactions from the audience’s different senses – like the smelling the fragrance of the wood from the trees. He paints another landscape with a similar theme and color pallet, called Girl in White in the Woods. Painted in August of the same month, the artist uses a different composition, having the central figure – the little girl – facing the viewer.
This phase in Van Gogh’s career is marked by paintings that show his growing fascination with the use of color. Not as daring as his later works, Girl in the Woods has a warm color palette, predominantly with reddish-brown and black. The Post-Impressionist artist, later on, becomes famous for his intelligent use of complementary colors and this painting shows how he begins to experiment with this. He inserts specks of green, blue and yellow to break the monochromatic landscape and make it richer and more alive. The blue used in the far background also gives the atmosphere a colder and somber feel.
The way Vincent Van Gogh portrays this small child alone in the middle of the woods can be a view on life itself. The overwhelming nature is represented as this grand oak tree that stands tall behind her, along with the other equally large trees in the background. She looks into the distance – to a point where the spectator doesn’t have access, bringing more mystery to the scene. The modern painter hardly painted children in his work, but when he did it brought him great pleasure. He saw this theme as rebirth, giving the work a sense of hope.
During this period, Van Gogh quickly develops his notion for the use of color as he was informally instructed by Anton Mauve, who also helped him with his drawing techniques. This change in approach can be seen in Girl in White in the Woods, for he gains confidence in portraying his instincts, in comparison with Girl in the Woods. The painter even states to his brother Leo through letters of his instinctive knowledge of color combinations.
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