Loving Vincent

posted on 25th Sep 2018 by Veronica Dooley

Vincent van Gogh is rightly credited as the father of modern art and his work still inspires almost 125 years after his death. His choice of subject, brushwork and sense of style still fires the imaginations of generations of modern and contemporary artists. His paintings have now also inspired a truly original and stunningly beautiful feature film, where we are pulled into the heavily painted world of Van Gogh’s paintings.

‘Loving Vincent’ is a breathtaking film made entirely of oil paintings and is brought to us by Hugh Welchman, a British producer along with his wife, and Dorota Kobiela, a Polish painter and filmmaker. The numbers involved in the production of this film are staggering. It took 125 artists almost seven years to painstakingly paint in oils almost 65,000 paintings. To make the animation look fluid, every second of the nearly 87-minute film needed to consist of 12 hand-painted frames. Creating one frame takes from an hour to two days, which means that a painter may spend nearly a month on a single second of the film.

 

Simulating van Gogh’s instantly recognizable work was crucial. The artists spent days upon days in the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam studying the master’s application of paint, his textures and his brushstrokes so that the film would accurately reflect his style of painting. Over 125 of van Gogh’s paintings are stitched together to form the film’s backdrops morphing into a canvas that comes alive in front of your eyes.

Each sequence of the film has been inspired by paintings such as ‘The Night Cafe’, ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ and ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’. The result is a visual delight for the eyes where van Gogh’s corn fields shimmer and his night skies sparkle and swirl, taking on new dimensions and forms and at times almost leaping from the screen.

In the film, there are parts of Vincent’s life that he didn’t paint, so black and white flashbacks were created based on photographs from the era. This allowed the filmmakers a freedom to show dramatic situations from Vincent’s life without having to imagine an entire series of paintings that Vincent never painted.

Irish actors Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd and Aidan Turner have all their performances transformed into moving artworks. Footage was shot of the cast playing out scenes on green screens. Then the scenes were projected on to canvases, frame by frame, and painted over, bringing to life the faces of van Gogh’s iconic portraits. And the novelty of seeing the actors faces converted into moving-image portraits as if painted by van Gogh himself stays with you until the end.

The film is played out as a detective investigation and centres around the last few weeks of the artists’ troubled life and mysterious death. The plot centres around Armand Roulin (played by Douglas Booth)—the son of van Gogh’s friend and postman Joseph Roulin (played by Chris O’Dowd)—who travels to Auvers-sur-Oise in search of the real story of the artist’s death. Along the way, he meets a wide cast of characters, including the artist’s physician Dr. Gachet (played by Jerome Flynn), Gachet’s daughter, Marguerite (played by Saiorse Ronan), and the keeper of the inn where the artist stayed (Eleanor Tomlinson).

Why tell the story in paintings? “You can’t tell Vincent’s story without his paintings,” Kobiela says. “Van Gogh completely dedicated the last nine years of his life to his artistic quests.” Through the film we are guided literally right through some of the greatest masterworks of modern art, surrendering yourself to the textures of the scenes. This is the telling of the artist’s story through his art. “Loving Vincent” is a painstaking tribute van Gogh – a moving exhibit of his work, unlike any before, with each frame a homage to its elusive subject and his remarkable work. Kobiela, who pored over hundreds of van Gogh letters during the research process, says she couldn’t imagine exploring van Gogh’s story any other way. In a letter van Gogh wrote just one week before his death he said: “We cannot speak other than by our paintings.”

 

VERONICA DOOLEY – CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER
Veronica is our resident artist and brings her undeniable flair for the creative into her role as Client Services Manager. She’s always on hand to guide you through all the aspects of your project right through to the final stages. When she’s not at her desk, you’ll find her getting creative in her own private studio, working away on everything from paintings to printmaking and drawing.