The National Gallery of Victoria, in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia, presents Van Gogh and the Seasons for the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series in 2017. Curated by Sjraar van Heugten, independent art historian and former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum, Van Gogh and the Seasons is internationally exclusive to Melbourne and presents the largest collection of Van Gogh artworks to ever travel to Australia. Van Gogh, one of art history’s most recognisable figures, had a brief but prolific art career spanning barely more than a decade, leading to an artistic legacy that continues to inspire artists and captivate the public to this day.
Van Gogh and the Seasons will explore Van Gogh’s profound connection to the seasons of nature through nearly 50 paintings and drawings. For Van Gogh the seasons represented the circle of life – 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 evoked 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.
Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said: ‘Van Gogh’s love of the seasons was deeply profound and played an important role in his life and practice. This reverence for summer, autumn, winter and spring and the eternal cycles of nature is seen in the energy and dynamism of his distinct brushstrokes, which almost leap off the canvas with vitality. Van Gogh and the Seasons is a true coup for the National Gallery of Victoria, and an opportunity for our audience to experience the largest display of Van Gogh works ever seen in Australia, most which have never before travelled to this country.’
Van Gogh and the Seasons features key 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.
Van Gogh and the Seasons is presented within sections devoted to each of the four seasons. The artworks 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 he committed suicide in 1890 at the age of 37.
The exhibition invites 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 explores the influences and themes that dominate much of this visionary artist’s work.
Alongside Van Gogh artworks, additional material is presented including a major multimedia installation and works from Van Gogh’s own art collection, providing fascinating context and showing ‘the seasons’ as a subject of perennial interest to artists of many different cultures and eras.
Van Gogh and the Seasons is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, a children’s publication, a dynamic program of talks, tours and events and the curated NGV Friday Nights program, featuring live music, food and performances.
The exhibition is organised by the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Exhibitions Australia.
Van Gogh and the Seasons will be on display at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia from 28 April – 9 July 2017 as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.