Thursday, 25 July 2013

Van Gogh at Work

Fig. 1 Vincent van Gogh Self portrait as a painter
1887-1888, Paris, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of its opening, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is currently showing “Van Gogh at Work.” The exhibit traces a 10-year-period of Van Gogh’s growth as an artist through a collection of 200 items, including 150 paintings, sketches, sketchbooks, letters, paints and palettes. The exhibit is a compilation of an eight-year-long research project and presents in detail Van Gogh’s painting methods and actual drawing techniques.

“Self Portrait as a Painter” (Fig. 1) is often noted for its depiction of an artist fervently at work with attention focusing on Van Gogh’s facial expression. This exhibit examines Van Gogh’s art supplies. In the painting, the artist stands before an outdoor easel, holding a palette with paintbrushes in his hand. There are a total of seven flat and round brushes, the flat suited for painting surfaces and the round for filling in details. A study of the paints by the containers on the palette revealed that the orange was cadmium orange, and the deep blue to the left was a mix of cobalt blue and white lead.

Fig. 2 Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers,1889, Arles
Van Gogh Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
The second and third floors of the museum display photos and videos that explain the scientific investigations. To save money, Van Gogh often painted new works on top of canvasses of previously completed pieces. The Van Gogh Museum used X-ray photography to uncover earlier paintings on canvasses thought to have been recycled. There are also microscopes through which visitors can view samples of extracted paints to see the layering as well as three-dimensional replicas of portions of paintings that allow one to touch and feel the protrusion of such layers.
Fig. 3 Vincent van Gogh’s Pallete from Auvers Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Photography: Erik and Petra Hesmerg

Until August, two versions of “Sunflowers,” one owned by the Van Gogh Museum (Fig. 2) and the other from the National Gallery, London will be displayed on both sides of “Portrait of Augustine Roulin“ in a reincarnation of the “triptych” from Van Gogh’s sketchbook. From September, the museum will show all three versions of “Bedroom in Arles,” (the Van Gogh Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Musée d’Orsay). Also on display will be Van Gogh’s only remaining palette (Fig. 3) and three out of the four existing sketchbooks of the artist. This is a rare exhibit that fans of Van Gogh will not want to miss.

Van Gogh at Work. Through January 12, 2014.

Van Gogh Museum
Paulus Potterstraat 7
1071 CX Amsterdam
The Netherlands
+31 20 570 5200
Opening times:
May 1 – Sept 1, 2013 / Dec 27, 2013 – Jan 5, 2014: 9:00-18:00 (Fridays until 22:00)
Sept 2 - Dec 26, 2013 / Jan 6 - Jan 12, 2014: 10:00-17:00 (Fridays until 22:00)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Frans Hals Museum’s one-hundred year commemorative exhibitio

The Frans Hals Museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem recently celebrated its one hundredth birthday. The exhibition “Frans Hals: Eye to eye with Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian”, featuring paintings by the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Frans Hals, representative of the Golden Age, and the works of the masters who influenced him, commemorates this event. It has been twenty-five years since a Hals exhibition of this scope was on show.

Hals was especially talented at portraits; the natural posing and movement of his models , their cheerful expressions are exactly living, breathing people. The painting “Laughing Boy” (image left) is a portrait of a young boy smiling a toothy, innocent grin. In seventeenth century art theory, painting a smiling expression was considered incredibly difficult, but Hals skillfully expressed an attractive smiling face with a deft touch.

At the hall in the back of the museum, is collected Hals’ vigilante corps’ collective portraits. In the Netherlands in the 17th century, which had just achieved independence from Spain, citizens organized vigilante groups for the purpose of defense and maintaining public order. They would sometimes order group portraits from painters. When at first collective portraits were painted, many paintings showed every subject’s face neatly aligned, like in a group photograph, but gradually movement was introduced onto the surface of the canvas, and the scene of the corps members at a banquet became popularised. While capturing each member’s facial expression and personality, Hals also depicted the affable scene of comrades smiling and drinking together at a lively banquet. The banquet dining table, reproduced at the centre of the hall, leaves the spectator somehow in the midst of their banquet.

The inner yard of the museu
In the exhibition rooms, the works by Hals and the other painters dealing with the same motifs are on display in such a manner that they can be compared with one another. One set, among them, features “The Lute Player” that Dirck van Baburen painted in 1622 and the “The Lute Player” painted by Hals in the following year. Van Baburen, who underwent extensive training in Rome, is one of the artists who brought the Caravaggio school’s preferred themes, such as people playing music, or at cards, to the Netherlands. Hals, receiving this new motif from Baburen, went on to paint many portraits of people playing instruments. The person depicted in “The Lute Player” smiles with great playfulness, and seems to be enjoying the music from the bottom of his heart.

In recent years research has proved that Hals, who was active in Haarlem, had exchanges with his contemporaries. This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to learn more of the influential relationships of seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish painting with the likes of Hals, Rembrandt and Rubens.

The exhibition will be open until 28 July (the museum is closed on Mondays)

Frans Hals Museum
Groot Heiligland 62
2011ES Haarlem
The Netherlands
Opening times:
Closed on Mondays
Tuesdays – Fridays 10:00 – 17:00
Saturdays – Sundays 11:00 – 18:00