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Last year at the MFAH, a Breathtaking van Gogh Retrospective.

More than 50 pieces from the prolific—and troubled—artist were on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

The MFAH exhibition went far beyond the collection of paintings van Gogh created in the last few years of his life and was unlike anything that has been seen in Houston before. The exhibit was a collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands.

Van Gogh left for Antwerp to enroll in an art academy and take drawing classes in November 1885. Abandoning the theme of rural farm life, he shifted his focus to portraiture. Shortly following, he left for Paris where he moved in with Theo. The city inspired a brighter palette, while his friendships with Emile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had a major influence on his work.

1887 01DSC 0630Vincent van Gogh, Impasse des Deux Frères, 1887, oil on canvas, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

1887 03HDSC 0629Vincent van Gogh, In the Café: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, January–March 1887, oil on canvas, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Light and Color in the South.

After two years in Paris, Van Gogh grew weary of city life and longed for a setting like those in the Japanese landscapes he admired. He hoped to find it in the south of France, and relocated to Arles. “I noticed some magnificent plots of red earth planted with vines, with mountains in the background of the most delicate lilac. And the landscape under the snow with the white peaks against a sky as bright as the snow was just like the winter landscapes the Japanese did,” he wrote to Theo on February 21, 1888.

With this return to the countryside, Van Gogh developed a recognizable style of his own, characterized by long, rhythmic brushstrokes and thick layers of paint in increasingly brighter colors. Inspired by the bright light and the colors of southern France, he painted fields of wheat, vineyards, and vibrant portraits. But months of personal crisis followed.

1888 05 HDSC 0620Vincent van Gogh, The Langlois Bridge at Arles, May 1888, oil on canvas, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands

Japanese wood block influence clearly demonstrated in the bridge work. 

1888 07HDSC 0625Vincent van Gogh, The Rocks, Montmajour, July 1888, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

1888 07HDSC 0622Vincent van Gogh, View of Saintes-Maries, July 1888, oil on canvas, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands

The trip to Saintes-Maries awakened something in the artist in terms of color.

1888 09HDSC 0624Vincent van Gogh, The Green Vineyard, September 1888, oil on canvas, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands 

1888 10hDSC 0087Vincent van Gogh, Tarascon Stagecoach, October 1888. (Princeton University Art Museum/The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation)

Almost full blown synthetic palette, perhaps this work connotes the arrival of Paul Gauguin to Arles in autumn of 1888.

Gauguin departed by the end of December.

1888 11h dsc xxxVincent van Gogh, Portrait of a Man, end of October–mid-December 1888, oil on canvas, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands
1889 0507HDSC 0627Vincent van Gogh, The Garden of the Asylum at Saint-Rémy, May 1889, oil on canvas, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands

Looked up with no where to go, van Gogh painted better absent the chronic alcohol which marked his days with Gauguin.

1889 09h peasantVincent van Gogh, Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet), September 1889, oil on canvas on cardboard, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

1890 01HDSC 0617Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of a Peasant Girl in a Straw Hat, 1890, oil on canvas, private collection

Formerly owned by John Dorrance, Philalphia, PA then Steve Wynn, Las Vegas, now ruomored to be the property of Steven A. Cohen, SAC Capital

1890 05HDSC 0618Vincent van Gogh, Irises, May 1890, oil on canvas, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

 

About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...