Skull with Cigarette (1886)
This image was made just prior to the beginning of the 19th century; however it demonstrates a starting point for the shifting trend in skulls and skeletons in art that we will explore. Van Gogh painted this work while studying figures from life models at the Academy of Art in Antwerp. The students were at the time learning in the academic tradition, which relied heavily on the classical examples and practices of ancient Rome and Greece. Because Van Gogh did not agree with this form of painting, this image was most likely meant as a joking mockery of the academic practice.