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Gopnik's Daily Pic: Monticelli, van Gogh's godfather

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at www.blakegopnik.com.

Monticelli-1996.45.208.jpg
(Courtesy the Baltimore Museum of Art)

Daily Pic: "Early Spring," painted by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli in 1871, and now in the permanent collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art. (Yes, Daily Pic is there again). With his insanely thick, expressive brushwork and unnatural intensity of color, Monticelli comes close to being a post-Impressionist painter, before the Impressionists had had their first show.

Van Gogh counted Monticelli as a crucial precedent, and could not have existed without him. He's said to have remarked, "I sometimes think I am really continuing that man" - and yet the older artist barely gets any credit or notice. (In his own day Monticelli was widely collected, and therefore extensively forged. Most museums own a whole bunch of Monticellis, and probably some fakes - all hidden in their vaults.)
We've recently seen a revival of fortunes for James Ensor and Martin Munkacsi and other "minor" figures, so maybe Monticelli's turn will come. Monticelli's biggest mistake? He stayed based in grimy Marseilles, instead of resettling in Paris and becoming part of its scene and myth.

By Blake Gopnik  | November 3, 2010; 8:43 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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