The Summer of Van Gogh

Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were the first works of art to really have an impact on me. I loved his use of color and the feeling of constant movement that his lines evoked. This summer there was an opportunity to delve deeper into Van Gogh’s work with two shows — one very small and one large, both closing soon. The first is Irises and Roses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (closes August 16). Painted on the eve of his departure from the asylum at Saint-Rémy, the group includes two paintings — an Irises and a Roses — from the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection, and one each from the National Gallery of Art in DC and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition reunites the four paintings for the first time since the artist’s death.  It opened 125 years to the week that Van Gogh announced to his brother Theo, on May 11 and 13, 1890, that he was working on these “large bouquets,” according to the Met. The paintings are beautiful but they no longer carry the original colors that Van Gogh selected when painting them. To learn more about this, and other details behind the paintings, you must watch the terrific videos on the wall opposite the paintings.

A much larger Van Gogh exhibit can be seen at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.  Van Gogh and Nature (on view through September 13) contains fifty works including iconic paintings such as A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889, National Gallery, London), The Olive Trees (1889, The Museum of Modern Art, New York), and The Sower (1888, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo). As the Clark describes it, the exhibition focuses on Van Gogh  as a “thoughtful and meticulous student of nature who found solace and personal fulfillment in studying and enjoying the natural world.” What I found surprising about some of these paintings was the use of  a different color palette than one expects with Van Gogh’s works.

If you’re a Van Gogh lover like me, you can also see 15 additional works by Van Gogh in the permanent collection at the Met. Additionally, the Moma and the Guggenheim also have a few Van Goghs on view.

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