Sunflowers, 1887. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Oil on canvas, 17 x 24 inches (43.2 x 61 cm), Framed: 26 1/4 x 33 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches (66.7 x 85.1 x 6.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund
Undergrowth, 1887. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Oil on canvas, 13 x 18 1/8 inches (33 x 46 cm); Framed: 20 1/4 x 25 3/8 inches (51.5 x 64.5 cm). Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands.
Almond Blossom, 1890. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Oil on canvas, 28 15/16 x 36 1/4 inches (73.5 x 92 cm). Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Emperor Moth, 1889. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Oil on canvas, 13 3/16 x 9 5/8 inches (33.5 x 24.5.cm). Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Undergrowth with Two Figures, 1890. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 39 1/4 inches (49.5 x 99.7 cm). Cincinnati Art Museum, Bequest of Mary E. Johnston.
Iris, 1889. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890. Oil on thinned cardboard, mounted on canvas, 24 1/2 x 19 inches (62.2 x 48.3 cm). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
An artist of exceptional intensity, not only in his use of color and exuberant application of paint but also in his personal life, van Gogh was powerfully and passionately drawn to nature. From 1886, when van Gogh left Antwerp for Paris, to 1890 when he ended his own life in Auvers, van Gogh’s feverish artistic experimentation and zeal for the natural world propelled him to radically refashion his still lifes and landscapes. With an ardent desire to engage the viewer with the strength of the emotions he experienced before nature, van Gogh radically altered and at times even abandoned traditional pictorial strategies in order to create still lifes and landscapes the likes of which had never before been seen.
Van Gogh Up Close, a major exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Canada, presents a group of the artist’s most daring and innovative works that broke with the past and dramatically altered the course of modern painting. Made between 1886 and 1890 in Paris, Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers, the works in the exhibition concentrate on an important and previously overlooked aspect of van Gogh’s work: “close-ups” that bring familiar subjects such as landscape elements, still lifes, and flowers into the extreme foreground of the composition or focus on them in ways that are entirely unexpected and without precedent. These landscapes and still lifes have not previously been seen together or identified before as critical to our understanding of van Gogh’s artistic achievement.
Van Gogh Up Close, includes major loans from museums and private collections in Europe, North America, and Japan, and will be seen in the United States only in Philadelphia before traveling to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and will offer a wide range of programs, including a lecture on the artist by exhibition co-curator Joseph J. Rishel; a conversation about the legacy of van Gogh with a panel of contemporary artists; a film series; and a lecture and book signing with Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, co-authors of the recent biography Van Gogh: The Life.
The exhibition will feature over 70 works, including 46 paintings by van Gogh and more than 30 comparative works such as Japanese woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige and Hayashi Roshü; European prints and drawings by Jean Corot, Camille Pissarro, and Jacob Ruisdael; and photographs by Frederick Evans, August Kotzsch, and others. Van Gogh was an avid collector of Japanese and European prints and drawings by artists whose aesthetic devices served as sources of inspiration for him. While van Gogh was loudly dismissive of photography, the medium offers intriguing parallels with his work and it is possible that van Gogh would have been fascinated by contemporary landscape photographs.