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The Cleveland Museum of Art presents ‘Van Gogh’s Répétitions’

The Large Plane Trees (detail), November–December 1889. Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890). Oil on canvas; 73.4 x 91.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund 1947.209
The Large Plane Trees (detail), November–December 1889. Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890). Oil on canvas; 73.4 x 91.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund 1947.209
The Cleveland Museum of Art

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is a name that stirs up debate and controversy every time it is brought up. From his battle with mental illness, his self mutilation over the love of a woman and even his death there are many unanswered questions. It is because of this controversy that we have such a fascination with the artist. In answer to the many misleading depictions regarding Vincent, The Cleveland Museum of Art has gathered an exhibit titled, “Van Gogh’s Répétitions” that will be on public display beginning March 2, 2014 through May 26, 2014.

The mission of the exhibit is to look past the obvious in this troubled artist’s life and to examine the genius behind his best known works. The term “repetitions” is a term that Van Gogh used to describe his practice of painting additional versions or variations of his compositions. Although there is still debate among experts concerning the process that Van Gogh used to produce the various works, it is becoming clearer that this practice was an integral part of his creative process.

These various versions of the same paintings show up from his early work in the Netherlands through to the final months at Auvers-sur-Oise. While in some cases the practice served as a practical manner in which to produce additional versions to give to friends and fellow artists, it is now becoming more evident that he used the exercise to more fully develop and idea or motif. Much like a musician will work a score through various personal interpretations; Van Gogh’s “repetitions” was a refinement of an original idea that produced a distinctwork with each succeeding painting.

The exhibit will showcase over 30 paintings and works on paper that come from some of the most extensive Van Gogh collections in the world. Works have been gathered from such prominent collections as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Of special note are two versions of “The Arlésienne” (1888) and five versions of “The Postman Joseph Roulin” (1888-1889).

The original inspiration for the exhibition came from a study of the relationship between The Cleveland Museum of Art’s “Large Plane Trees” and The Phillips Collection’s “The Road Menders” that both dating from late 1889. This exhibit reunites the two masterpieces so that patrons may do their own side by side study of each work in order to detect the repetitive qualities as well as the differences between the two.

“Our research reveals that Van Gogh was a far more complex and nuanced artist than the popular stereotype suggests,” observes William Robinson, curator of Modern European Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “By comparing works painted from life with the repetitions produced in the studio, the exhibition challenges the popular caricature of Van Gogh as an artist who always painted in a flurry of overheated emotion. Extensive technical analysis of the artist’s paintings, combined with a thorough reading of his letters, offers new insights into an artist who has been widely mis-portrayed in books, plays and films.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated, scholarly catalogue, published by Yale University Press in association with the Cleveland Museum of Art and The Phillips Collection. The catalogue features 125 color illustrations, including numerous examples of Van Gogh’s repetitions, related works and technical studies. Essays by CMA Curator William Robinson, CMA Senior Paintings Conservator Marcia Steele, Phillips Chief Curator Eliza Rathbone, Phillips Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele, H. Travers Newton, independent conservator and Galina K. Omsted, CMA research assistant consider the many unresolved issues and controversies surrounding Van Gogh’s repetitions. The Cleveland Museum of Art is publishing a supplement to the catalogue, Van Gogh: New Research and Perspectives, on its website.


Adult combination tickets for Van Gogh Repetitions and Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan from the Tokyo National Museum are $20 and include re-entry to view the Remaking Tradition second rotation of objects. The exhibitions are free for museum members.

Combination tickets must be purchased by phone at 216-421-7350 or in person; no online ticketing is available for this exhibition. Complementary exhibition programming includes lectures, tours, film and educational programs.

CMA Members Preview

The exhibition is open to CMA Members from 4 – 9:00 p.m. on Friday, February 28, 2014 and from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Timed tickets are required for entry.

Related Programming

Van Gogh Repetitions is accompanied by related programming. For more information and updates, please refer to

Lectures and Gallery Talks
Van Gogh: The Face in the Mirror
Friday, February 28, 2014-02-21
7:00 p.m.
Gartner Auditorium.
Free; reservations strongly recommended.

Please remember that timed tickets are required for entry to the exhibition.
George Shackelford, deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, will speak on Van Gogh’s remarkable self-portraits, from the earliest drawings made about 1881 to the last disturbing paintings of 1889. Drawing on the artist’s writings, Shackelford will chronicle Vincent’s search to fix his own image in the context of his biography, and will relate the artist’s remarkable paintings and drawings to the history of self-portraiture from Rembrandt to Lucian Freud.

Shackelford is co-author of Van Gogh: Face to Face (2000), Gauguin Tahiti (2003) and Degas and the Nude (2011). Prior to his appointment at the Kimbell, Shackelford also served as Chairman of European Art and Curator of Modern Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until 2011, where he curated the exhibition Van Gogh: Face to Face, focused on Van Gogh’s evolving approach to the portrait throughout his tragically brief life.

This lecture has been generously sponsored by the Painting and Drawing Society in conjunction with the exhibition Van Gogh Repetitions.

Faking Van Gogh
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
7:00 p.m.
Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Gallery
Free; timed exhibition ticket required.
Advance registration recommended.

Curatorial Research Assistant Lucy Zimmerman discusses the history of Van Gogh forgeries and their complicated relationship to the artist’s repetitions, from the faked Van Goghs of Otto Wacker of the early 1900s, to suspicions about certain canvases raised by experts today.

Van Gogh Week

In celebration of Van Gogh Repetitions, enjoy a lecture and symposium delving into the life and work of this legendary artist.

Van Gogh and Madness
The Artist Versus the Legend
Wednesday, April 23, 2014-02-21
7:00 p.m.
Gartner Auditorium
Free; reservations strongly recommended.

Please remember that timed tickets are required for entry to the exhibition.
CMA Curator of Modern European Art William Robinson and CMA Senior Paintings Conservator Marcia Steele discuss the research conducted in preparation for the exhibition “Van Gogh’s Repetitions” and its potential for altering perceptions of this iconic artist. Recent discoveries obtained through scientific analysis of Van Gogh’s paintings shed new light on the artist’s working methods, stimulating reconsideration of the relationship between his artistic production and illness. The speakers explore the questions of what these studies tell us about conventional views of Van Gogh and the constructed myth of the modern artist.
Presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art Women’s Council.

Reconsidering Van Gogh
Saturday, April 26, 2014-02-21
12:30 p.m.
Gartner Auditorium
Free; reservations strongly recommended.

Please remember that timed tickets are required for entry to the exhibition.
Art historians and medical professionals offer new interpretations and insights into Van Gogh’s art and illness. Speakers include William Robinson, co-curator of the exhibition Van Gogh Repetitions; Cornelia Homburg, internationally renowned Van Gogh scholar and curator of three Van Gogh exhibitions; and Dr. Joseph Calabrese, chair and professor of Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and director of the Bipolar Research Center, Mood Disorders Program, University Hospitals, Cleveland.


Van Gogh Repetitions Guided Tours
Weekdays, March 4–May 16, 2014-02-21
11:00 AM.

Depart from the information desk in the Ames Family Atrium.
Exhibition ticket required.


Vincent and Theo X3
In conjunction with the current exhibition Van Gogh Repetitions, we present three acclaimed films with differing perspectives on the relationship between Vincent van Gogh and his art dealer brother Theo.

Vincent & Theo
Sunday, April 6, 2014
1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
6:30 p.m.

This naturalistic look at the lives of Vincent and Theo van Gogh shows that both men were tormented individuals. The movie also examines the age-old tension between art and commerce. Directed by Robert Altman. With Tim Roth and Paul Rhys. (Netherlands/UK/France/Italy/Germany, 1990, 138 min.)

Lust for Life
Sunday, April 13, 2014
1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
6:30 p.m.

Van Gogh’s anguished personal and artistic life, and his brother’s attempts to help him, are vividly dramatized in this celebrated biopic that employs the painter’s vibrant colors. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. With Kirk Douglas, James Donald, and Anthony Quinn. As Paul Gauguin, Quinn won an Oscar. (USA, 1956, 122 min.)

The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh
Sunday, April 27, 2014
1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
7:00 p.m.

A nuanced, multifaceted portrait of “mad” Vincent van Gogh emerges from this singular film, in which excerpts from Vincent’s many letters to his brother (read here by John Hurt) are paired with finished canvases and with shots of landscapes that the artist might have painted. “The best film about a painter I have ever seen.” –Roger Ebert. Directed by Paul Cox. (Australia/Belgium, 1987, 99 min.)

Unless noted, all films will be shown in the museum’s Morley Lecture Hall located at 11150 East Boulevard in University Circle and admission prices are $9 for the general public; $7 for museum members, seniors 65 and older, and students; or one museum film series voucher. Vouchers are sold in books of 10 and cost $70 for the general public, $60 for museum members.

Family Day

Second Sunday
Go, Go, Van Gogh!
Sunday, March 9, 2014
11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Ames Family Atrium.

Bring your family to the Cleveland Museum of Art on the second Sunday of every month for a variety of activities including art-making, storytelling, scavenger hunts, and movement-based gallery talks—no two Sundays are the same! Second Sundays features a unique theme each month in conjunction with the museum’s collection, exhibitions, and events.

In March, celebrate the art of Vincent van Gogh and his interest in Japanese art. Paint like van Gogh, work with other museum visitors to create a Japanese Screen, and help make a work of art in motion in the atrium. In honor of Van Gogh Repetitions, take our Double Vision scavenger hunt through the galleries and try to spot the differences.

Van Gogh Repetitions is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. The presentation at the Cleveland Museum of Art is proudly sponsored by BakerHostetler. The exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and it features exceptional loans from the Musée d’Orsay.

About the Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for the quality and breadth of its collection, which includes almost 45,000 objects and spans 6,000 years of achievement in the arts. The museum is a significant international forum for exhibitions, scholarship, performing arts and art education and recently completed an ambitious, multi-phase renovation and expansion project across its campus. One of the top comprehensive art museums in the nation and free of charge to all, the Cleveland Museum of Art is located in the dynamic University Circle neighborhood.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is supported by a broad range of individuals, foundations and businesses in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. The museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Additional support comes from the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund the museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. For more information about the museum, its holdings, programs and events, call 888-CMA-0033 or visit

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