"An artist needn't be a clergyman or a
churchwarden, but he certainly must have
a warm heart for his fellow men."
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh was Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. He was a unique artist who worked with a sense of urgency and he was famed for his bold, dramatic brush strokes that expressed emotion and added a feeling of movement to his works.
One of his most famous macabre paintings is ‘Skull with Burning Cigarette’ that was probably painted in the winter of 1885–86 as a humorous comment on conservative academic practices.
To improve his command of the human figure, Vincent attended life classes at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, where a skeleton was used to study anatomy. This famous skull, or skeleton, with a cigarette was actually meant to be some kind of joke. It was also meant to be considered as a comment on “conservative academic practice”.
Enjoying this famous painting, you can come up with so many conclusions to what this painting means and find yourself with another point-of-view you were not expecting. One of the possible thoughts that came to mind is that Van Gogh was trying to convey that death is not as bad as it seems.
Also this one of the most famous works – a stark momento mori – may have been produced in a time when Van Gogh’s health was poor and may reflect his own concerns about his state of well-being.
Overall, “Skull With Burning Cigarette” by Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous paintings because it conjures up so many ideas in the person viewing the piece.
While we may never know the full backstory behind this work, one thing is certain…Vincent Van Gogh has captured our imaginations with this unusual and yet extraordinary painting.