March 5, 2012 – The Philadelphia Museum of Art is world-renowned, yet often taken for granted by local residents.
But they’re coming out in droves to see the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh in an up close and personal exhibition, the only American stop on a groundbreaking tour that focuses on the artist’s final two years, 1889 and 1890. This was a time of great turbulence for Van Gogh, who spent most of it in an asylum, and also great production, with him at one point completing 90 paintings in 90 days.
In all Van Gogh painted almost 900 paintings between 1881 and 1890, yet he never sold a painting unless you count his brother, Theo, who he knew his brother Vincent was creating something special, and ahead of his time.
The exhibit runs through May 6, and features about 30 paintings from this period. Some of his most famous works in the exhibit include:
Van Gogh painted a series of Sunflower canvasses, four in all. The one on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was painted in 1889. All four are similar in style, and only differ slightly in color.
Our tour guide explained that in his early works, Van Gogh’s paintings featured symmetrical objects, with an equal balance throughout the canvass. In his Iris and many other paintings of that era, Van Gogh used techniques he perfected in Paris, and that were also common with Japanese art commonly known as the “S” shape. The eye focuses on the upper right hand side of the painting at first glance, and brings you around the painting in the shape of an S.
Van Gogh’s interest in Japanese art is prominent in his painting Cherry Blossom. He painted it as a gift for his nephew, also named Vincent. The painting still belongs to the Van Gogh family, and was loaned to the exhibit by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Many attendees were disappointed that A Starry Night wasn’t displayed; however, it is close by, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it is on permanent display.
In a 900-page book entitled “Van Gogh: The Life” released in Oct. 2011, authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith claim that Van Gogh didn’t actually commit suicide. Rather, they write, a teenage boy accidentally shot Van Gogh, and the artist claimed he shot himself to protect the boy.
We paid $15 more than the $25 ticket price for a private tour early Sunday morning before the museum opened to the general public, and it was well worth it. The crowds have been massive for this exhibit, and were lining up around the building as we left. With the private tour, we were permitted to spend as much time in the exhibit as we wished, but only 22 people were granted entry with each tour – until the museum opened.
No photos were permitted inside the exhibit hall, but I managed to snap a few before we entered.
The back entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Outside of the exhibit hall
The grounds surrounding the museum, over looking Philadelphia and the Schuylkill River
If you live in the Philadelphia area, or are planning a visit before May 6, Van Gogh Up Close is a must see. I’m definitely not an art expert, I just know what I like, and seeing the actual paintings up close and personal, the texture of the paint and brush strokes, and the colors used (blues were definitely my favorite), was like a little piece of heaven in Philadelphia.