Van Gogh: Irises & Roses – The Met Reunites Master Works

Van Gogh Walking to Work

Vincent van Gogh, 1888, Arles, self portrait on Road to Tarascon – believed destroyed in WWII

Capturing the moment, the joy of life and revealing many of its secrets or truths happens in the glories of the French countryside in Provence where you can you discover it’s a perfect expression of the French love of nature, from where all of the colours in Provence evolve.

Provence, Provence, even the name evokes images in the mind; of brilliant Van Gogh sunshine and it is not hard to be lured by the enticing soft bouquet of the countryside where the air is clear and clean, swept by the relentless mistral,

Every marauding army in history has more than likely passed through the same spot you are standing on and in Provence you become aware that you are just a small dot on the history of this ancient place.

Painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) certainly did.

He spent fifteen months in Provence at Arles, where capturing the moment and colours that abounded in glorious array, he produced some 200 paintings in a time of ‘voracious artistic productivity’.

He wrote in his letters from the Yellow House in Arles

Vn Gogh 4 The Met

Vincent Van Gogh, 1888, Oil on canvas, courtesy Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

“My house here is painted out in fresh butter yellow, with raw-green shutters, and it sits full in the sun on the square where there is a green garden, plane trees, pink laurels, acacias. Inside its completely whitewashed and the floor is red brick. And the intense blue sky above. When the green is fresh it is a rich green like we rarely see in the north, a soothing green. When it is burnished or covered with dust it does not become ugly for it, but the countryside takes on gilded tones in all the nuances; green gold, yellow gold, pink gold or bronzed, or coppery, and from lemon gold to an ombre yellow”.

At an exhibition to be held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York May 12 – August 16, 2015, Van Gogh: Irises and Roses will reveal how this marvellous French post-impressionist artist has, for over a century now, engaged our attention with the power of contrast in colour and form, which was so affected by where he was.

Van Gogh 3 The Met

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise), 1890, The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1993, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

His splendid roses and irises were an admirable sequel to the glorious Sunflower series of Arles.  Their contrasting formats and colours seduce everyone with their expression of ‘calm, unremitting ardour’.

Conceived as a series, the presentation at The Met in New York will be timed to accord with the blooming of the flowers that first captivated the artist’s attention.

The new show is all about inviting old and new viewers of his work to re-react to the impact of his genius when viewing all the works together for the first time since he painted them.

For some of the time he was in Provence van Gogh lived at Arles with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. They admired and inspired each other with such an intensity of passion that van Gogh famously cut off his left earlobe.

The Yellow House is also from where he was taken to hospital later to be incarcerated in the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole at Saint-Remy where during his last week he marked the end of his yearlong stay by painting flowers gathered from the overgrown garden he had first depicted upon his arrival.

The show has been designed to open 125 years to the week Vincent Van Gogh announced that he was working on these “large bouquets” in letters to his brother dated May 11 and 13, 1890

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890). Irises, 1890. Oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 x 92.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Adele R. Levy, 1958

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890). Irises, 1890. Oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 x 92.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Adele R. Levy, 1958

On July 2, 1889 Van Gogh described his latest addition to the series he had launched that June: “I have a canvas of cypresses with a few ears of wheat, poppies, a blue sky, which is like a multicolored Scotch plaid.”

When Van Gogh checked himself out of the asylum, dramatically bringing his Provençal adventure to a close within a little more than two years, he had however completed a ‘great enterprise’ one he described himself as a “revelation of colour.”

The canvases were left behind and did not catch up with him in Auvers until late June, just a month before he died.

By the following spring they were gone, dispersed, their dynamic effect as a whole conception gone. His carefully plotted colours between them lost forever until this initiative to bring them back together began.

Van Gogh was an artistic genius. He imagined the bouquets from flowers he had gathered at the same time as he was packing his bags to leave.

He rigorously attacked his canvases, producing work after work in just three days, using every aspect of skills well honed over the period of his life to anchor each composition in a juxtaposition of colour, form and light that not only complimented each other but also melded them together as a seamless whole.

Van Gogh 2 The Met

Wheat Field with Cypresses Vincent van Gogh, (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise), 1889 – courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The curators want contemporary viewers to re-consider Van Gogh’s technique of deliberate dispersal of his paint and its well-planned colour fading on his intended results.

Van Gogh 1 The Met

Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase Vincent van Gogh, (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise), 1890, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The works were painted using ‘light sensitive’ pigments and over the century since they were finished the violet flowers have become ‘blue’ and the pink roses almost white, which curators now believe was deliberately contrived.

They have come to a realisation that perhaps Van Gogh had deliberately wanted these works to gradually fade away and at some point return to the earth from which they had come in all their beauteous array.

Then they would assist other plants to regenerate and dazzle yet another artist along life’s way with their beauty of form, grace and colour.

The show ‘reflects his spirited determination to make up for lost ground, to prove he had not lost his touch, and to make the last strokes count’ observed the curator Susan Alyson Stein, Engelhard Curator of Nineteenth-Century European Painting in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of European Paintings. Charlotte Hale, Conservator in the Department of Paintings Conservation, who directed the technical research and analysis undertaken in conjunction with the project.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

Van GoghVan Gogh: Irises and Roses

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York

May 12–August 16, 2015

The Met New York Notes: ‘The Museum’s initiative in reuniting the group of four paintings has been the stimulus for new technical and documentary investigations, undertaken in close collaboration with researchers, conservators, and scientists at the lending institutions.

Their findings will be introduced in the exhibition, which will include digital color reconstructions, based on extensive analysis and comparative study.

The installation will present the paintings in the order in which they were realized, and in frames adapted from the artist’s profile but designed to be unobtrusive, so that the unfolding logic and verve of Van Gogh’s four-part painting campaign may be fully appreciated.

As an accompaniment the French artist Pierre Huyghe will install the third in a new series of site-specific commissions for the Met’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden.

Huyghe has spent the past 25 years working across media to create ritualistic situations and immersive encounters. His project at the Museum explores the transformation of cultural and natural resources through an evolving process and a complex network of elements taken from the surrounding environment.









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