Arts City: Van Gogh and the Seasons 2017

Arts City: Van Gogh and the Seasons 2017

This morning I attended the media brief regarding the National Gallery of Victoria's Autumn/ Winter season for 2017. The program reflects a strong commitment to offer compelling and dynamic art experiences relevant to their diverse audiences. The National Gallery of Victoria in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia will present our Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition for 2017, Van Gogh and the Seasons, in an Australian exclusive. Curated by Sjraar van Heugten, art historian and former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

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Van Gogh knew well the role the seasons played in his artistic vision and how the changing landscapes acted as a constant and deeply profound source of inspiration. He wrote to his brother, Theo: "those with an eye for it see something beautiful and good in all weathers, find snow beautiful and burning sun beautiful and storm beautiful and calm beautiful, cold good and heat, are fond of all seasons and don't want to miss a single day of the year.

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The seasons had profound meaning for Van Gogh: they represented the circle of life within nature; birth, bloom, maturity and death. For the artist, this ongoing cycle represented the greatness of nature and the existence of a higher force. Van Gogh repeatedly painted scenes that richly evoke the sensory pleasures or deprivations particular to each season; spring-time, with its blossoming orchards and flowering meadows; summer, with fields of ripe wheat shimmering under the hot sun; autumn, with bountiful harvests and solitary figures sowing seeds as dusk approaches; and winter, with peasants digging potatoes out of frozen fields, or sharing a meagre meal by candlelight.

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The exhibited works will depict places that were the setting for many defining moments in the artist's tumultuous life; the Dutch region of Brabant, where Van Gogh was born in 1853 and lived for much of his early life; Arles, where the artist experienced his most defining period of creativity; Saint-Rémy de Provence, where he was treated for mental illness in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum; and Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890.

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Van Gogh and the Seasons will feature works lent by leading international museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (which respectively hold the largest and second largest collections of works by Van Gogh in the world). It will feature approximately forty paintings and twenty-five drawings, presented within sections devoted to each of the four seasons. Additional documentary material, including works from Van Gogh's own art collection (such as Japanese woodcuts), will provide fascinating context and show the seasons as a subject of perennial interest to artists of many different cultures and eras.

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The exhibition will invite viewers to contemplate Van Gogh's life and experiences through his observations of the seasonal changes within the natural world. Drawing extensively from Van Gogh's letters and from research into his deep interest in literature and nature, Van Gogh and the Seasons will explore the influences and themes that dominate much of this visionary artist's work. The exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, a children's publication, a dynamic program of talks, tours and events and the curated NGV Friday Nights programs, featuring live music, food and performances.

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