Van Gogh only lived in London for two years and therefore this exhibition feels tenuous at times in Van Gogh’s link to Britain. It is, however, an interesting perspective on Gogh’s work and the curation smoothly weaves the themes of Gogh’s influences together along with the artists that inspired as well as took inspiration from him.
Van Gogh particularly admired the pictorial element of Japanese prints and the technique of abruptly cropping scenes. This was often emulated in his paintings as in the examples of Trunk of an Old Yew Tree, October 1888 and Olive Trees, June 1889. The works by various other artists seen next to Van Gogh’s own, have been selected for their similar styles such as Samuel John Peploe, Trees at Cassis, c.1928 and Vanessa Bell, The Vineyard, c.1930. Peploe’s painting reimagines Gogh’s lively and immediate application of paint in unusual hues. Bell, like Van Gogh suffered from mental health and found consolation in painting in the countryside, creating a harmony of form and colour from her surroundings.
Trunk of an Old Yew Tree, October 1888
Olive Trees, June 1889
Samuel John Peploe, Trees at Cassis, c.1928
Vanessa Bell, The Vineyard, c.1930
Still Life, Basket of Apples, Autumn 1887 is a lovely product from one of the many meaningful and lasting relationships Van Gogh cultivated throughout his life. Becoming transfixed with a beautiful basket of apples when in France, his friend (and Art Dealer) Alexander Reid, bought it for him as he had no money himself. Van Gogh immediately painted the apples twice, gifting the first to Reid. You see from this painting, as you do in others, his joy in using colour and brush stroke and his own understanding of creating texture and movement through interesting line work.
The short film clip shown from ‘Lust for Life’ summarises Van Gogh’s energy for nature and the way he was captured by the apples on Rue Rodier and the ‘gnarled trunks, twisted branches and silverly leaves’ in Olive Trees. How Winter in Provence particularly struck Van Gogh with the ‘stronger light, the blue sky that teaches one to see’. Gogh was undoubtedly in love with nature and all its abundant offerings.
The exhibition highlight is seeing some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings in person, providing an interesting contextual journey that permits access to the mind behind the work. It is worth going to see the wonderful colours in his self-portraits, and Starry Night, September 1888 where the overwhelming darkness, juxtaposed by the depth and vividness of lights, leave a lasting impression of the inescapable weight an evening can bring.
Still Life, Basket of Apples, Autumn 1887