Van Gogh in Ottawa: Crazy About Flowers

    Iris by Van Gogh ... courtesy of National Gallery of Canada

Iris by Van Gogh … courtesy of National Gallery of Canada

Vibrant colors, designs that undulate like flickering flames and the somewhat unstable compositions of Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh have given the world a unique perspective on nature.

As Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada said at a press preview in November: “Vincent Van Gogh’s profound love of nature has often been taken for granted, but has rarely been studied.” This changes with Van Gogh: Up Close, the first major Canadian exhibition of works by the famous Dutch artist in more than 25 years. The exhibit will be on view at Ottawa’s National Gallery from May 25 to September 3, 2012, the only venue for the exhibition in Canada.

Mayer continued, saying that this project will give us fresh insight into Van Gogh’s thinking, placing him in a new and unexpected light. Notes from the National Gallery explain that visitors to the exhibition will be able to see the Dutch painter’s genius from “an entirely new perspective by exploring the artist’s approach to nature through his innovative use of the close-up view.” Van Gogh experimented with depth of field and focus, zooming in on one tuft of grass or wheat, or a single iris and provided shifting perspectives of a farmer’s field or perhaps just one corner of a garden in Provence.

The exhibition, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was curated by Dr. Cornelia Homburg, Independent Scholar and Guest Curator and Dr. Anabelle Kienle, Assistant Curator, European and American art (1850 to 1980) at the National Gallery of Canada. It was made possible by the presenting sponsor, Sun Life Financial. A total of 45 paintings will be on view as well as some 50 additional works, including Japanese prints, drawings from the 16th through the 19th century and 19th century photographs.

In 1888, in Arles, Van Gogh wrote: “If we study Japanese art, then we see a man, undoubtedly wise, who spends his time – on what? – studying the distance from the earth to the moon? (…) – no, he studies a single blade of grass. This blade of grass leads him to draw all the plants – then the seasons, the broad features of landscapes, finally animals, and then the human figure. He spends his life like that, and life is too short to do everything.”

Van Gogh paintings from the collection of the National Gallery include Iris, 1889 and Bowl with Zinnias and Other Flowers, 1886. International lenders include the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which lent Almond Blossom, 1890; the Kunstmuseum in Bern; the Musee d’Orsay in Paris; the Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo and the National Gallery in London. Other lenders: The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Honolulu Academy of Arts which allowed Wheat Field with Sheaves, an amazing painting dating from 1888 to be included.

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