PaperCity Magazine

March 2019- Houston

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98 A n exhibition for Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) usually evokes the word blockbuster, but this spring in Texas, there's a more compelling approach. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston rolls out a nuanced and intimate look at the Dutch painter whose expressionist works and tumultuous biography have captivated the public the way no other artist has. Don't expect the usual sunflowers and rippling fields of wheat — but we do get irises and olive groves, as well as the brooding drawings for The Potato Eaters. More than 50 canvases and drawings convey Van Gogh's development as a painter, one whose concise 10-year career unfolded amidst serious battles with mental illness. Traveling to Houston will be works largely loaned from the mother lode of the artist's holdings: landscapes, still lifes, and portraits from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Several other European museums send their Van Goghs to this show, as do the Art Institute of Chicago; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; the Dallas Museum of Art; and the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, as well as select private collections. Exhibition curator David Bomford — the museum's department of conservation chair and Audrey Jones Beck curator, department of European art — singles out what makes "Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art" extraordinary: "We decided to do a survey of his decade as an artist, from beginning to end. It sounds very obvious, but very few Van Gogh exhibitions do that these days … Van Gogh exhibitions tend to be about particular themes: the sunflowers, still lifes, or his time in a particular place. We're doing a general one, which BOTH IMAGES COLLECTION VAN GOGH MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM (VINCENT VAN GOGH FOUNDATION) BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON THE UNKNOWN VAN GOGH means we can concentrate on his life and his art … There has been nothing like this in this part of the world in a very long time. This is the first one in living memory." Incredibly, Houston is the sole venue. The show spans works from the painter's fledgling years living in the modest Dutch village of Nuenen, through café life in Paris and interactions with talents such as Toulouse-Lautrec as well as the influence of Japanese woodblock masters being discovered in Europe. The succeeding chapters are Van Gogh's sojourn in sun-soaked southern France, his time in the asylum, and his final canvases. Bomford's deep connection with the artist began some 30 years ago when he was at the National Gallery in London and conserved the museum's seminal Van Gogh canvas Sunflowers. "There was commitment and passion," he says of the artist's continued influence over the public, more than a century after his suicide. "If Van Gogh painted the sun, he wanted you to feel hot. The Impressionists didn't do that. If he painted a potato, he wanted you to feel the earth on the surface of it." The Van Gogh conversation with David Bomford continues at "Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art," March 10 – June 27, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Above: Vincent van Gogh's In the Café: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, 1887 Below: Vincent van Gogh's Irises, 1890

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