A room dazzled with paintings awaits you. Various hallways dart out to each side. Each is decorated with various Van Gogh paintings that line the walls. Colors of yellow, blue, white, and green bounce off the sides of the room. You wander to the first painting and see a canvas with a scientifically detailed image of two sunflowers. It shows the thinness of the green and brown stem as it widens to form the lively yellow flower that takes up most of the canvas. You step back and look around. You take a deep breath as you experience perfect bliss and discover the various works of art that surround you.
You are in Van Gogh Up Close, an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, running from February 1 to May 6. It displays various Van Gogh paintings of his artistic career from 1887 to 1890 during his journey from Paris to Arles to St. Remy and finally to Auvers sur Oise.
Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Pays-Bas (the Netherlands). He is a famous Dutch painter and sketcher and mainly painted from memory. The painter is known for the use of his two favorite colors, yellow and blue. In adulthood, Van Gogh went to Paris to continue his exploration of art, where his palette came alive. He lived with his brother Theo in an apartment until he journeyed to Arles to escape the city life and gain serenity with his increasingly poor mental conditions.
Van Gogh left his brother the collection of paintings and pictures that have been the inspiration for many of his paintings. Van Gogh enjoyed Arles, and many of his paintings reflect the natural scenery of dirt roads, farms, and fields. There, he met Gauguin, another Impressionist painter, and they ultimately influenced one another’s styles and works. However, their constant bickering drove the two friends apart. Soon after, Van Gogh’s mental conditions took over, and he was sent to an asylum at St. Remy.
Van Gogh was occasionally allowed outside to paint but was forced to mainly create his work from memory. This was shown in his work, as the paintings are less exact and have a more emotional impact. He wanted to be closer to his brother, Theo; therefore, he went to Auvers sur Oise, where he remained in the care of Docteur Gachet for the last weeks of his life. He then returned to St. Remy, where he shot himself in the chest in a wheat field. It is debated whether this was an act of suicide or an accident, as the bullet oddly failed to do any damage to his heart. Surgeons were unable to remove the bullet, and Van Gogh died from an infection three days later in a hospital in Auvers sur Oise after a visit from his brother Theo.
The Van Gogh exhibit is currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and consists of approximately forty Van Gogh originals. The exhibit focuses on the last three-and-a-half-years of Van Gogh’s life and the paintings that he created during that time. Besides the paintings, the display shows the pictures and paintings that Van Gogh used for inspirations, as well as his and Gauguin’s Japanese prints, which portrayed the style they tried to copy in Arles. Lastly, it includes informational headsets and descriptions near many paintings that are extremely informative on many aspects of Van Gogh’s live.
I truly enjoyed the exhibit and found it to be both informative and interesting. As a French III student at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, I have studied artists such as Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh extensively with Mme. Thieme and my fellow classmates. I was glad that I was able to use my skills at the exhibit as I informed my parents and other attendees of the finer details of Van Gogh’s life.
I was also surprised at the number of paintings and was baffled that there were so many of Van Gogh’s paintings in one room. The number of paintings along with the set-up of the exhibit in chronological order allowed many to catch a glimpse into the last 3 years of his life, from his series of sunflowers to “Almond Tree in Blossom,” a gift to his nephew and one of his last paintings. I found that the exhibit is successful at including these various important paintings, his collections, and information on many aspects of Van Gogh’s life.
Van Gogh Up Close should take you approximately one-and-a-half hours to enjoy all of the exhibit’s paintings. Remember that reservations are necessary! I recommend booking for entry at 10:00 AM as only a certain number are allowed in the exhibit at a time, and you could end up on a very long line by noon. Private tours of the exhibit are available, but a self-tour allows leisure to go at your own pace and discover the paintings by yourself. You also will not miss out on any information as audio tours are available for no charge!
Be sure to check out the other exhibits like Impressionism, Modern, Early American, Early European, Early American, and Amish Art. Lunch is available at a cafeteria or sit-down restaurant (reservations needed). The gift shop has some interesting items but can be pricey. Only pick what you really want!
Have fun on your trip!