There’s still plenty of scope for major institutions to continue to explore the life and work of the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh (1853-90). The exhibition at the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Ishøj, Copenhagen is the first major exhibition dedicated to his art in Denmark. Van Gogh in Copenhagen – for the first time in 50 years.
It is more than 50 years since the Danish public has been able to experience a large exhibition devoted exclusively to van Gogh’s paintings and drawings. In a unique collaboration with the Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands, ARKEN has opened its doors for a wide-ranging exhibition of van Gogh’s works with a focus on the relations among art, humanity, nature and religion.
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Van Gogh in Copenhagen – For the First Time in 50 Years
The exhibition consists of 28 paintings and 11 drawings from the Kröller Müller Museum in the Netherlands depicting hard-working farm laborers and captivating landscapes in French Arles expressing the divine in nature and mankind at a time of new departures in society when traditional faith was coming under pressure from modern philosophy and science.
The son of a protestant pastor, Van Gogh spent many years aspiring to become a priest, only to be rejected by the Dutch Reformed Church. Early in life he lost his faith in the church as an institution, although he did not lose his faith in God. He was convinced, in fact, that he could do good deeds by creating beautiful paintings.
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Vivid landscapes from Arles
Van Gogh spent only ten years of his life as an artist, from 1880 until his death. During that short time, in intense, fervent works, he was able to develop an original visual language, one that expressed his personal, spiritual approach to nature and the creation of pictures.
Van Gogh is best known for his time spent in Arles in the South of France, where he painted vivid landscapes using thick, frenetic brushstrokes. These works betray van Gogh’s close interest in nature, which can be traced back to his youth.
On 23 December 1888, when Vincent van Gogh cut off most of his left ear during a psychotic episode, he was still entirely unknown as an artist. He had no idea that this violent action would help define the framework for the mythmaking that would later surround his life and art. A less well known but quite crucial dimension in Van Gogh’s life, however, is his religiosity.
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Moving paintings and letters
Van Gogh is loved for his moving paintings and letters, which give us intimate insights into his life and thoughts. For Van Gogh life and art were a hard struggle. Yet he was able to create an original artistic idiom that demonstrates his profound belief in the cosmic unity of man and nature.
“What am I in the eyes of most people? A nonentity or an oddity or a disagreeable person — someone who has and will have no position in society, in short a little lower than the lowest. Very well…, then through my work I’d like to show what there is in the heart of such an oddity, such a nobody,” wrote Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his younger brother Theo van Gogh in July 1882.
The Van Gogh exhibition at Arken Museum of Modern Art, runs through Van Gogh 20 January 2019.
Van Gogh in Copenhagen – For the First Time in 50 Years, written by Tor Kjolberg