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“Van Gogh in Provence: Modernizing Tradition”

By | 3 March, 2016 | 0 comments

logo fondation Van gogh

From 14 May 2016 to 11 September 2016 – 11.00 AM at 07.00 PM

31 original paintings

Although Van Gogh was one of the truly original artists of his time, much of his art is rooted in tradition. After he left for Paris in 1886, modern subjects would enter his œuvre, and discussions with friends such as Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin would lead him to try his hand at new approaches. Basically, though, he would remain true to subject matter that he had admired even before he became a painter. Indeed, it can be said that Van Gogh becoming a truly great modernist was at least partly due to his loyalty to old loves: he built, so to speak, a modern house on solid old foundations, concentrating on strong use of colour, remarkable brush strokes and daring compositions, and giving established motifs a new and expressive form. This is the central theme of the exhibition, which will explore three genres that dominate his work: the figure, the landscape and the still-life.

From the beginning of his career, painting the human figure was the area in which Van Gogh wanted to excel, and this remained so for the rest of his career. Jean-François Millet would be his most important guide in this genre. Figure drawings were his main preoccupation during his early years and painting and drawing the human figure continued to be an important focus for him, as witnessed by his wish to produce a truly modern figure piece in Arles (for which he chose the subject of the sower). Portraits and self-portraits would become an important part of his practice during his French years.

Van Gogh had a huge love for nature, both in reality and in art, with the artists of the Barbizon School and 17th-century Dutch painters providing much-admired examples. Forceful and innovative landscapes are a main characteristic of his œuvre, both in his early work and his avant-garde paintings and drawings. By studying the modern art of his time and Japanese art during his two years in Paris (1886–1888), he developed a highly personal style and technique, which he employed to the full in the South of France. The Provençal landscape would inspire huge innovations during the time he spent in Arles and Saint-Rémy in 1888–1890. Nonetheless, the artists he admired at the beginning of his career would be on his mind even then, and even during his last months in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890 their distinct influence is evident.

The still-life as a serious preoccupation entered Van Gogh’s practice a little later, but took on a significant role from his time in Nuenen onwards, again showing his progress towards modernity while staying true to the realist tradition which had developed in France since the mid-19th century. Being at first a vehicle for developing his command of colour, the still-lifes soon – even in Nuenen – came to carry weight as important paintings in their own right.

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