Was Wheatfield With Crows the painting which begins Modern Art?

Sep 2013
907
Chattanooga, TN
I just watched Simon Schama's documentary Power of Art: Vincent Van Gogh. At the beginning of the documentary, Schama says the following:

"Just for once, everything was going right for Vincent Van Gogh. He'd just sold his first painting. And he'd been hailed by the critics as the genius of the future. He was painting like a demon, a picture a day. One of them....this one, Wheatfield With Crows, was a revolutionary masterpiece. It's the painting which begins Modern Art, yet within a few weeks, the man who had achieved it had killed himself."

I watched the entire documentary. The painting Wheatfield With Crows is discussed, but Schama never provides any evidence that Wheatfield With Crows began Modern Art or explained what he meant by the statement. To me, it is surprising that Schama asserts that Wheatfield With Crows began Modern Art. I think Van Gogh's Starry Night is more popular than Wheatfield With Crows.

Did Vincent Van Gogh's painting Wheatfield With Crows begin Modern Art?

If so, how did Wheatfield With Crows begin Modern Art?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,013
Sydney
I would think this dubious honor belong to Turner , the true father of impressionism
until then painting was allegorical , portraiture or realism
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,210
Welsh Marches
Schama's statement is consciously and characteristically rhetorical, he knows perfectly well that there is not a single thing that can be characterized as 'Modern Art' and there was not a single track that led to it; there was a genral tendency at the end of the C19 and begiining of C20 that led away from realistic three-dimensional representation, and that particular painting represents an especially striking instance of that tendency in its earlier stages - one cannot rationally claim any more than that, and I don't suppose that Schama would try to do so if he was asked to comment on the remark in a discussion.

Wonderful painting but wretched tendency in my view, both painting and classical music took a path that undermined wonderfully fruitful traditions extending from the Renaissance ot the end of the 19th Century, and reduced the high arts to a marginal position in modern life.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,013
Sydney
It is a well worn trope than painting faced by photography had to redefine perception
it also was a time of great turmoil in the worldview
if one has to put the crown of "father of modern painting" , Vincent long suffering brother Theo Van Gogh
as an art merchant was seminal in making the new style of Monet and Cezanne flourish
painting is all well but actually getting patrons to buy and appreciate the new style was the important step
 
Mar 2019
1,858
Kansas
Did Vincent Van Gogh's painting Wheatfield With Crows begin Modern Art?
No - like so many creative things Modern Art was a synergy of multiple people all sort of moving in the same direction. It is like arguing what the first Rock and Roll song was or who invented Rock and Roll.

Having said that Van Gogh was a major contributor to the movement, but I would be more likely to suggest Starry Starry Night be a better candidate than Wheatfield.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,013
Sydney
" more likely to suggest Starry Night be a better candidate "
that's a good point
also , when I saw the irises in Amsterdam the experience was overwhelming
 
Feb 2019
856
Pennsylvania, US
I guess it depends on what Schama considers to be "modern art". Is it with the first break from realism? Was it the first experimental application of medium? Or was it the acceptance of what was once the 'Salon de Refuses' now had intrinsic worth?

You could argue that Manet made a serious break with traditional art style, traditional art subjects, painting techniques and artistic theories (with 'The Luncheon on the Grass') with his use of flat areas of color (no molding and layering of paint to create depth), his farcical juxtaposition of nude and dressed figures out of doors, his breaking of perspective with the size of the woman in the water (she is too large to be where she is in space)... this was painting something like 30 years prior to 'Wheat Field with Crows'.

I think people tend to get rather emotional about Van Gogh - his style now has a sort of mass appeal... in his work there were the beginnings of a sort of freedom of color and rejection the idea that our preceptions of the world are just in visual (what the eye perceives), rational terms... he was searching for a visual vocabulary for all the sensory input and emotional response derived from a scene, a flower, a person...

I often look at Fauvism (the "Wild Beasts" of the early 1900's) as truly breaking with the old - using colors that are contrary to any sense of reality, but that nevertheless create depth... I don't know if color had ever been used in such a experimental way before this... people with their faces half green, landscapes with red water, blue trees... It kicked open a locked door - and it's almost as if once they went there, the possibilities became endless.