Commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the Great Painter’s Death in Milan and Mons, Paris and Oslo, Amsterdam and Arles.
2015 (29th July, 2015 to be precise) marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Vincent van Gogh, unquestionably one of the finest painters of the 19th century. In commemoration of his untimely passing at the age of just 37, there are a number of exhibitions taking place across Europe this year celebrating the life and works of this prestigious artist.
First and foremost to the Belgian city of Mons, about to take its turn in the spotlight as it prepares to become the European Capital of Culture 2015 this week alongside Plzen in the Czech Republic. Situated to the southwest of Brussels, a mere 47-minute journey by direct train from Brussels Midi, Mons officially takes on the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture this coming Saturday, and kicks off its newly-recognised cultural status with an exhibition to be held in its Musée des Beaux-Arts devoted to Van Gogh and his time in the Borinage.
Running from the 25th of January through to the 17th of May, ‘Van Gogh in the Borinage’ tells of the painter’s time as a lay preacher in the coal-mining district of the Borinage in the late 1870s, a period in which he paid more attention to his artistic skills and made the decision that his true vocation lay with painting. Indeed the many manual workers whom Van Gogh encountered during his time in Belgium inspired him to draw and etch, painting god-fearing, hard-working people, deserving of salvation and the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey from preacher to painter, with some 70 paintings, drawings and letters written by Van Gogh exemplifying the various sources of his inspiration in the Borinage. Open from Tuesday to Sunday (10am to 6pm), entrance to the exhibition costs 15€ (12€ concessions).
Meanwhile in Milan, the Palazzo Reale is currently the illustrious host of another exhibition devoted to Van Gogh, this one entitled ‘Van Gogh – Man and the Earth’. Running until the 8th of March (open daily), the exhibition explores the intrinsic relationship between the artist and the land and features 47 works by Van Gogh himself including Self-Portrait (1887), Portrait of Joseph Roulin (1889) and Landscape with Wheat Sheaves and Rising Moon (1889). Divided into six distinct sections – Man and the Earth; Life in the Fields; The Modern Portrait; Still Lifes; Letters; and Colours and Life – the exhibition journeys from Van Gogh’s initial sketches to his vibrant and colourful depictions of people and the land. With works on loan from Amsterdam, Utrecht and Otterlo in the Netherlands, as well as Mexico City, this is a must-see if you happen to be city breaking in Milan over the next couple of months.
Alternatively if Paris is your short break destination of choice this winter, the little-known Fondation Custodia, situated on the Rue de Lille in the 7ème arrondissement, is currently exhibiting works from the collection of the P. and N. de Boer Foundation. Entitled ‘Goltzius to Van Gogh. Drawings & Paintings from the P. and N. de Boer Foundation’, the exhibition contains around 20 paintings and 95 drawings, with a special room dedicated to Van Gogh’s work. Works on display include Worn Out, a drawing of a desperate figure, Moulin de Blute-fin, dating from his time in Paris, and Wheatfield (1888), a colourful painting from his time in Arles. Running until the 8th of March, the Fondation Custodia is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm to 6pm. Entrance costs 6€.
Further south, the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles is preparing an exhibition to go on display later this year, entitled ‘Van Gogh’s drawings: influences and innovation’. Running from the 12th of June to the 2nd of September, the exhibition will feature some 40 drawings by Van Gogh himself alongside other works by artists who inspired him, from 17th-century engravings to the Japanese artworks.
Of course Amsterdam is the place to be if you really want to celebrate Van Gogh in all his glory and in conjunction with the Munch Museum of Oslo, the city’s Van Gogh Museum will later this year be playing host to a fabulous retrospective of not one but two A-list artistic stars. Entitled ‘Munch : Van Gogh’, the exhibition explores the parallels between the work and artistic ambitions of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, both known for their personal, innovative style and technique and an oeuvre replete with expression and emotion. Indeed the tormented lives of both painters are exemplified through their work.
Brought together on such a prominent scale for the first time and with over 100 artworks on display including iconic masterpieces and rarely seen loans, this unmissable exhibition goes on display first in Oslo (7th May to 6th September, 2015), then moves to Amsterdam later this year for the autumn and winter months (25th September, 2015 to 17th January, 2016).