Getting on our hands and knees with Van Gogh

van gogh

In collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum, the National Gallery of Canada opened its exhibition Van Gogh: Up Close on May 25, which along with 100 works from other artists, features 47 works from Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh.

techniques, from the dramatic cropping seen in the Tree Trunks in the Grass (1890) to the intricately rendered details of the Sunflowers (1887).

Cornelia Homburg, renown Van Gogh scholar, and Anabelle Kienle Poňka, associate curator of European and American art at the National Gallery, co-curated the exhibition from a new perspective of Van Gogh’s close-up view.

“We have looked at his decision to paint nature almost lying in it with his knees in the grass,” Homburg said.

Van Gogh has not been represented in Canada on this large of a scale in over 25 years, according to the gallery’s website.

This innovative thesis on the artist’s relationship to nature that allowed Homburg and Poňka to borrow works from lenders around the world.

National Gallery director Marc Mayer said that most of the paintings in the exhibition had never been to Canada before.

“It’s a fresh academic perspective. This is van Gogh’s relationship with nature. It s never really been studied before, certainly not with the depth that our curators have given it,” Mayer said.

Iris (1890), and Bowl with Zinnias and Other Flowers (1886), are Van Gogh works that can be found in the Gallery’s permanent collection. Poňka expressed a desire that viewers may see the pieces from the permanent collection in conjunction with other works in the exhibition painted from the same garden, offering different viewpoints.

“Therefore we can appreciate it even more so as a magnificent work that is part of our national collections and something we should be incredibly proud of.” Poňka said, referencing the Iris.

The acquisition of Van Gogh works was “no easy feat,” but Homburg and Poňka rose to the challenge. Almond Blossom (1890) was one of the more renown pieces from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam featured in the exhibit.

“I remember my first discussion with them about this loan which is sort of like a no-no, you do not ask for this picture. When I explained what we were doing they said, ‘

Well if there was one exhibition where it actually made sense, this would be one of them,’ ” Homburg said.

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