A small installation at the Detroit Institute of Arts explores van Gogh’s influences
Peasants in the fields. Rural landscapes. Painting from life, not textbooks.
Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh may be known for all three, but they are several other artists, many of whom were part of the Dutch school of art in The Hague, a group of artists working in that part of his country. native at the end of the 19th century, which shaped him as a painter.
Now, a focused installation at the Detroit Institute of the Arts explores some of these artists, their work and their impact on van Gogh ahead of the opening of the museum’s blockbuster “Van Gogh in America” exhibition later this year.
“Van Gogh’s Artistic Roots: The Hague School and French Realism,” inside the DIA’s Dr. George and Vivian Dean Gallery through January 29, features 12 pieces – seven paintings and five works on paper, including pastels, watercolors and prints – by eight artists, most from the Netherlands but a few from France. All influenced van Gogh’s work in one way or another for a period, whether through their subjects, technique, or rural landscapes.
It’s about putting Van Gogh in context, said Dorota Chudzicka, assistant curator of modern European art at DIA.
“We feature artists that van Gogh admired, wrote in his letters and wanted to emulate,” Chudzicka said. “Many of them had an impact on his work, especially in the early years of his career.”
The small installation—and it is, indeed, small; five of the works on paper, however, will be changed this summer because they can only be displayed in light for so long – comes as the DIA prepares to open its highly anticipated exhibition this fall, “Van Gogh in America “. It will feature 70 paintings by Van Gogh and “tell the story of America’s introduction to the iconic artist,” according to a press release.
The exhibition coincides with the 100th anniversary of the DIA’s purchase of van Gogh’s 1887 “Self-Portrait” at an auction in New York in 1922. It was the first American museum to purchase a painting by van Gogh for his collection. The DIA now has five.
After multiple career changes, van Gogh decided in 1880 that he wanted to be an artist. He lived in several places, including about two years in the early 1880s in The Hague on the west coast of the Netherlands. He lived there once in the 1860s.
“He desperately wanted to be part of a community of artists, to interact with artists in order to learn and improve,” Chudzicka said. “He had, from the start, this all-consuming ambition not just to be an artist, but to be a successful artist.”
But of the eight artists featured in “The Artistic Roots of Van Gogh”, van Gogh knew very few personally. One, Anton Mauve, was his cousin by marriage. He may also have known Jozef Israëls, Chudzicka said.
Israels, who has three featured pieces in the installation, was the informal head of The Hague School of Art. The Hague School, born in the 1860s and 1870s, was then considered the center of modern Dutch art.
“They worked in the tradition of realism going back to the 17th century, the so-called Dutch Golden Age of painting – Rembrandt, Jacob van Ruisdael,” Chudzicka said. “They were the masters they revered. They thought from the 17th century until their time that there was only corruption.”
Their work reflects a simpler style based on observations of nature – mothers with their children, fishermen and peasants. Holland was going through a period of transformation at the time and they believed their work would “sustain” the country, Chudzicka said.
Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters”, a portrait of a peasant family around a table, is a good example of the influence Israel had on him. Israels’ style evolved later in his career, with more free brushstrokes.
And while the influence of the featured painters eventually faded for van Gogh, who committed suicide in 1890 – Chudzicka calls it his Dutch period – it is still significant.
Mauve, for example, van Gogh’s cousin, encouraged him to paint from nature.
“When van Gogh arrived in The Hague, Mauve gave him instructions – he gave him lessons in common problems, how to draw hands and faces,” Chudzicka said, standing near the oil on canvas painting. the end of the 19th century of Mauve, “Go to the pasture”. which is included in the installation. “He taught him the technique of watercolor and especially advised him to paint from nature. Until then, van Gogh had mainly drawn from manuals and reproductions. This was a change and became a principle of his art throughout his life.”
“The artistic roots of Van Gogh”
Inside the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Gallery at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Until January 29.