Skull Of A Skeleton With A Burning Cigarette Analysis

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Van Gogh painted “Skull of a skeleton with a burning cigarette” in 1886, while still studying art. It is highly likely that the skeleton was painted while he was studying anatomy at the royal academy of fine arts.
The painting itself is bold, displaying a slightly turned head and shoulders of a rather earthily coloured skeleton, gripping between its teeth what appears to be a burning cigarette. In stark contrast to the bright skeleton is the very dark background which is relatively plain, perhaps painted this way in order to make the skeleton the main article. If so, Van Gogh was successful; although one of his earlier works, “Skull of a skeleton with a burning cigarette” is a striking piece of art which has subsequently caused much speculation.
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However I believe that while this may have made a contribution, it was primarily Van Gogh’s boredom with his study which drove him to paint this. It appears as though he has used the skeleton in his anatomy class to place the bones correctly, and then, as almost a direct gibe at the mundanity of his college, has decided to put a comedic twist on the piece. The irony of the cigarette being in the mouth of such a traditionally grim symbol is interesting for many reasons. Could it be he was highlighting that the toxicity and addictiveness of cigarettes will not only drive you to the grave, but follow you beyond it? Or that bad habits die hard? Or could the ash even exemplify the ash which some of our number will ultimately be reduced to? Nobody can say for certain, but if we consider the intrinsic mystery and bold nature of this painting, then one may realise that this is perhaps what Van Gogh wanted. It would certainly have added a degree of excitement, to his otherwise tedious studies, for someone to speculate over

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