Home Arts Van Gogh in the “After Impressionism” exhibition at the National Gallery in London

Van Gogh in the “After Impressionism” exhibition at the National Gallery in London

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After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art, which opens next week at the National Gallery in London, focuses on the pioneering period from 1886 to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 (March 25-August 13). Van Gogh is among the major artists featured, offering a rare opportunity to view images from private collections.

The arts journal previously revealed that the exhibition was to be organized with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, but this collaboration was abruptly cut short when Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Just over a week later Gabriele Finaldi, the gallery director, phoned his Pushkin counterpart, Marina Loshak, with the message that it’s off.

Among the Russian borrowings that had been previously discussed were Van Gogh’s loans The red vineyard (November 1889) and Landscape in Auvers after the rain (June 1890), which are now very rarely lent to international exhibitions. But despite the loss of Pushkin’s paintings, the National Gallery has managed to borrow a good selection of choice Van Goghs, thanks to the generosity of private owners.

by Van Gogh Sunset at Montmajour (July 1888)

Private collection, courtesy of HomeArt

The most exciting thing will be the chance to see a superb rediscovery of Van Gogh, Sunset at Montmajour (July 1888), which has quite a story attached to it. In 1908, the painting was purchased by Norwegian industrialist Christian Mustad. Shortly after, a knowledgeable friend warned him that it was a fake. The painting was quickly banished to the attic, where it remained until his death in 1970. It was forgotten and omitted from Van Gogh’s literature.

Ten years ago, after a thorough technical examination, specialists from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam confirmed that Sunset at Montmajour is very authentic. The pigments and canvas correspond to those used by the artist in Arles and the style and brushstroke are typical. On the back of the canvas is the number 180 in pencil, which links it to an image listed in an inventory of 1890.

The painting depicts the former monastery of Montmajour (the buildings are barely visible on the far left of the horizon), with the landscape at sunset. In July 1888, Vincent had written to his brother Théo: “I was on a stony moor where very small twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill… the sun poured its very yellow rays on the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold.

The recent comings and goings of Sunset at Montmajour was unknown after a period on loan to the Van Gogh Museum, but is now on loan to after impressionism by its current private owner, courtesy of HomeArt. This company was created in Hong Kong, which suggests that the Van Gogh would have been sold to a Chinese collector. In last week’s blog post, we revealed that half of the most expensive Van Goghs sold at auction were acquired by Chinese ownersall over the past nine years.

by Van Gogh Houses in Saintes Maries de la Mer (June 1888)

Credit: private collection

Houses at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (June 1888), which also comes to the exhibition, is one of Van Gogh’s most colorful landscapes. It depicts a row of low-roofed thatched cottages in the Mediterranean fishing port of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which the artist visited in May 1888. With its plunging perspective, the viewer is led along the road, lined with houses and dense vegetation, towards a tiny triangle of clear blue sea.

The painting shows how Van Gogh was inspired by the intense Mediterranean light. Immediately after his return to Arles, he wrote to Théo: “Now that I have seen the sea here, I really feel the importance of staying in the south and feeling… the color must be even more exaggerated . The photo was until recently in a private collection in Texas, although the current lender remains anonymous.

by Van Gogh landscape with plowman (September 1889)

Credit: private collection (sold at Christie’s, New York, November 13, 2017)

landscape with plowman (September 1889) shows a stylized view of Van Gogh’s bedroom window at the asylum just outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The small figures of the horse and the farmer plod along under the rising sun.

Vincent had written to Théo in September 1889, when he was recovering from another mental crisis: “Yesterday I started to work a little again — something I can see from my window — a field of yellow stubble that we plows, opposition of purplish stubble plowed land with bands of yellow stubble, background of hills. Work distracts me infinitely better than anything else.

The painting was among a few Vincent sent to his mother Anna and sister Wil. landscape with plowman was sold in 1908 for the equivalent of $800. After passing through several owners, it was sold at auction at Christie’s in 2017 for $81 million, going to an anonymous Chinese buyer.

by Van Gogh Arlesienne (L’Arlesienne) (February 1890)

Credit: private collection (sold at Christie’s, New York, May 2, 2006)

Arlesian (February 1890) is based on a portrait drawn by Paul Gauguin of their mutual friend Marie Ginoux, the owner of the Café de la Gare, which was almost next door to the Yellow House in Arles. The two books on the table in front of her are French editions of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and that of Dickens Christmas Talesboth admired by Van Gogh.

In a sincere gesture, Van Gogh wrote to Gauguin that he should consider the painting of Mary as “a work by you and me, as a summary of our months of work together”. Van Gogh made five versions of this painted portrait while living in the asylum. This one sold for $40 million at Christie’s in 2006.

after impressionism includes a fifth Van Gogh: Sfield now covered with a harrow (after Millet) (January 1890), on loan from the Van Gogh Museum. The artist painted it at the asylum, creating a colorful rendition of a smaller black and white print by Jean-François Millet.

The National Gallery exhibition also features later works by artists influenced by Van Gogh, such as Erich Heckel’s House in Dangast (The White House) (1908, now Carmen Thyssen Bornemisza Collection) and Max Pechstein Portrait of Charlotte Cuhrt (1910, recently acquired by the National Gallery).

by Erich Heckel House in Dangast (The White House) (1908)

Carmen Thyssen Bornemisza Collection; © VEGAP, Madrid

For Van Gogh aficionados, the exhibition includes a painting by Gauguin made in Arles: The Harvest (Human miseries) (November 1888), on loan from the Ordrupgaard Collection in Charlottenlund, just outside Copenhagen.

As after impressionism points out, Van Gogh, along with Gauguin and Paul Cézanne, laid the foundations of modern art. The 85 works in the exhibition include key paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Munch, Klimt, Bonnard, Matisse and Picasso.

Other Van Gogh short stories:

Linda Seidel, Vincent’s Arles: as it is and as it was (University of Chicago Press, March 14)

Credit: University of Chicago Press

Linda Seidel’s book Vincent’s Arles: as it is and as it was (University of Chicago Press) is published its month. While certainly of interest to Van Gogh fans, much of the text is a gripping account of the city’s Roman and early Christian history, setting the stage for the artist’s arrival.

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