Eliza Rathbone, the chief curator, says this exhibition focuses on van Gogh’s repetitions. “Repetitions” was a term he used to describe his practice of creating more than one version of a particular subject. An exhibition on van Gogh’s repetitions has never been done before despite the fact that this is an important aspect of his work, Rathbone stated.
Van Gogh had an ability to create numerous versions of his most famous subjects, she said. He often began by sketching a person or landscape rapidly from life. Back in the studio, van Gogh would repeat the subject, reworking and refining his idea on a fresh canvas, in some cases many times. In contrast to the popular perception of van Gogh wielding his brush with wild abandon before nature, this exhibition shows how he was also methodical and controlled.
This is the first exhibition the Phillips Collection has devoted exclusively to van Gogh, although several of his works appear in the museum collection. Rathbone said she wants visitors to wonder about the power of van Gogh's work to move us. She said she hopes the exhibition will greatly enrich the understanding of his materials and techniques, as well as how he came to be the artist that he was. She wants us to be engaged in looking at his work in a new way.
The Dutch artist was born in 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands and lived only 37 years. At the time, few recognized his talent. His Post-Impressionist paintings and drawings would later have tremendous influence on 20th century art.
Among those attending this week’s press preview was Ambassador Rudolf Bekink from the Netherlands Embassy. “Vincent van Gogh is an artistic treasure, not only to the Netherlands but to the entire world,” he stated. “It is only fitting that the Phillips Collection brings a van Gogh exhibition back to Washington after a 15-year absence.”
“We will share the news about van Gogh Repetitions and encourage everyone to see this amazing collection of van Gogh’s works,” he said. Ambassador Bekink added that his embassy is working with the Phillips Collection on numerous activities, such as a social media campaign, a “Phillips after Five” event and a dinner to celebrate the opening of this exhibition.
“This is a rare opportunity to get to know one of the world’s most recognizable artists in a fresh, new way,” said Dorothy Kosinski, director of The Phillips Collection. “He is such a beloved figure who has earned great renown, but there is still much more to be learned. Through a close examination of this fascinating but only partially understood aspect of his work, we can create a richer, more meaningful picture of his personal life and artistic production.”
The Phillips Collection exhibition features more than 30 of Van Gogh’s artworks, both portraits and landscapes, from some of the world’s most renowned collections. The exhibition runs from Oct. 12 through Jan. 26, 2014.
For more information please see the van Gogh section of the Phillips Collection website. There will be a short introductory video to the exhibition on the Phillips Collection YouTube page and Vimeo page shortly after the exhibition opens.