I went to the Land of Van Gogh. No, not that one -- not the sun-drenched spots in Provence where so much of his beautiful and most memorable works were painted. Nor to the Netherlands, place of his youth. And no, not Paris either. I went to Detroit.
Yes, Detroit, Michigan and the Detroit Institute of Arts, home of the Van Gogh in America exhibit!
This exhibit features 74 paintings and drawings by the artist, on loan from museums and private collections around the world, along with those belonging to the DIA. The exhibited was curated by the DIA to commemorate 100 years since the museum purchased its first Van Gogh (the portrait further down in this post) and when it closes on January 23, all paintings will return to their original venues; the show will not go "on tour."
All paintings will return to their original donor or museum with one possible exception, that is. "The Novel Reader" is the subject of an ownership claim. Apparently, someone given possession but not title by the owner of the painting absconded with it and it has been missing until the exhibit. The anonymous donor was listed on the plaque crediting who loaned the painting to the exhibit only as "Private Collection, Sao Paolo, Brazil. There's more about that here for art fans.
There are so many favorites here along with a great many I'd not seen or was not familiar with. I'd never seen his black and white work before. You could see that some of the pieces served as inspiration or a "rough draft" of later colorful work.
For example, the wooded scene above bears an uncanny resemblance to this one, "Undergrowth with Two Figures" (1890)
Here's a detail.
I was fond of the still lifes. Below is one you may well have seen.
I absolutely loved this piece with the oranges against the blue background.
And this is a detail from a larger image of poppies.
And speaking of poppies, this poppy field was a mass of texture and color.
Not everyone is aware of Van Gogh's deep spirituality. He saw the sower as a symbol of regeneration, life and the spread of Christianity. This was another of my favorites, titled "The Sower" and done in 1888 (not to be confused with a similar but differently interpreted painting done the same year and with the same title.
Here's a detail.
"Wheatfields After the Rain" (1890) also focuses on the farm and the land and of course the wonderful light of Provence.
I was also fond of "The Diggers" 1889)
It never ceases to amaze me that one can be in a museum and be literally inches away from work done 150 years ago and see every detail, every brushstroke. Yes, they have guards to be certain you don't step over the line, but that line is only about 18 inches, if that, from the painting itself. Even though the crowds were intense, people were very patient and polite.
Later, when thinking about the exhibit, I tried to narrow down my favorites. It wasn't easy. There was this 1887 portrait, the first purchase of the artist's work by the DIA in 1922. It is the quintessential image so many of us have of the artist, with his straw hat and reddish hair.
Then there was the famouse "The Bedroom" (1889), his room on the second floor of what was known as "The Yellow House" in Arles.
I loved the 1890 "Bank of the Oise at Auvers," another part of the DIA's permanent collection and done shortly before his death. (In the 70 day before Van gogh died, he made about 30 drawings and 75 paintings. This was one of them.)
And then there was this -- the one you could barely see because the crowd in front of it was so dense. "Starry Night Over the Rhone," done in 1888. It was part of his series of starry night paintings and I think one of his most beautiful. The colors on my photo, taken in artificial light, cannot begin to show how luminous this was.
I felt so fortunate to be able to see this exhibition. And, at the end of the day (which included looking at other galleries at the DIA), I was glad to be home.
Maybe not at home in a cottage in France, but home.