Published  09/05/2002

Coughs and sneezes after Amsterdam

Coughs and sneezes after Amsterdam

Van Gogh/Gauguin at Van Gogh Museum through June 2

When Amsterdam coughs the art world sneezes. There may be less current razzmatazz than in New York or London, but rare scholarship is cleverly infused with marketability here, time and place specific for Arles 1888, when the two artists met sharing a house for two months or so. This was Van Gogh’s idea, backed by his brother Theo, (by then a prosperous art dealer in Paris). Gauguin was seven years older, worldly-wise and travelled. Both artists came together in a collusion of self-realisation, ennobled by their mutual dedication to art and nothing else. For Van Gogh, this brief period saw him produce ‘Sunflowers’. The mise-en-scene included the house, ‘The Yellow House’ as painted there, Van Gogh’s ‘Chair’ and his bedroom (‘The Bedroom;).

On arriving somewhat later than planned, Gauguin took over the wayward cuisine from a nervous Van Gogh (aware of how accidents happen with kitchen knives). Gauguin slipped easily into pole position in the yellow house. Then it was late in the year, and ‘plein air’ was replaced by painting indoors. In the final conjunction, following rational visits to local brothels (to eliminate serious dalliance), they painted each other. It was on the verge of Gauguin’s tactful departure from the joint enterprise that Van Gogh sliced off own his ear. Never can a portrait have upset its subject quite so much. The exhibition contains some 35 paintings. The highpoint of the exhibition is the comparative critique possible when both artists had painted the same subjects. Van Gogh’s versions, such as Le Café Rouge, or Les Alycamps, show how little he need have worried, despite Gauguin’s burgeoning success in Paris, since his work shines through, eclipsing that of the more pedestrian Gauguin. Two years later Van Gogh killed himself: Gauguin survived. Encapsulating this creative saga, the Van Gogh Museum has pulled of a brilliant and virtuoso display of curatorial supremacy at a time when ‘duets’ have become over-reaching to say the least.

studio international logo

Copyright © 1893–2024 Studio International Foundation.

The title Studio International is the property of the Studio International Foundation and, together with the content, are bound by copyright. All rights reserved.

twitter facebook instagram

Studio International is published by:
the Studio International Foundation, PO Box 1545,
New York, NY 10021-0043, USA