Art Exhibition Review: Van Gogh and the Seasons @ the NGV

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Melbourne’s own National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is tremendously lucky to be graced with the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s artworks to ever travel Australia. The current exhibition held at the NGV, Van Gogh and the Seasons is a part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2017 exhibition and celebrates Van Gogh’s love for nature by taking the viewer on a journey through the four seasons, further giving insight into defining moments in the post impressionist artist’s career.

Curated by Sjraar van Heugten, the NGV worked closely with Art Exhibitions Australia to bring this exhibition to life. There is no doubting the popularity of this art show as eager art goers were queuing as soon as the NGV opened, with a long line spiraled all the way to ticket collection.

From its very first moments, the entire exhibition had been designed to both engage and educate visitors on every aspect of Van Gogh’s life. Beginning with his birth in the Southern Netherlands, to his training in art school, his encounter with mental stress causing him to cut off his ear and finally admitting himself to a mental asylum where he later shoots himself in the chest, which caused his death two days after. He appeared to be an incredibly complex man who had demons, which is hard to believe judging by his artworks, which are incredibly vibrant and colourful as he captured the beauty in landscape and still life paintings.

The exhibition space for Van Gogh's exhibition

The exhibition space for Van Gogh’s exhibition

 

The atmosphere was calm and quiet in the exhibition space. There are numerous sketches of his early work lining the walls, which were fascinating but not very exciting. The best was yet to come, as his works were displayed thematically by season. Each separated by mesh fabric hanging from the ceiling with paintings hung on light grey wall panels on stands positioned around the space. The set up of the exhibition display was plain and dull as the mesh hanging fabric created an industrial vibe, which didn’t fully translate with Van Gogh’s energetic and expressive paint style.

Autumn welcomed viewers first as Van Gogh stated that to be his favorite season. Various earthy tones of orange and rustic brown filled portraits with his floral bouquet still lifes and peaceful landscapes. Paintings transitioned into winter with a predominant theme of peasant labour as Van Gogh considered winter to be a harsh season, but also one of rebirth. Cool tones of grey and blue were apart of an analogous colour scheme, which is often found in nature. These colour combinations created a dreary mood but one that was still very delicate and sincere.

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Left: ‘Bowl with Zinnias and Other Flowers’, Summer 1886 Paris, oil on canvas Right: Snow covered field with a harrow (after Millet), January 1890 Saint-Remy, oil on canvas

 

During Spring, Van Gogh painted many bouquet ‘still lifes’ in an attempt to brighten his colour pallet which he excelled at. Spring brought lively landscapes of flowers, grass and trees all created with Van Gogh’s distinct style as his attention to detail through line creates a fascinating and clear sense of movement and energy. Summer is the final destination, in which Van Gogh considered the season for harvesting wheat, being a symbol of growth and maturity. Warm colours of yellow and orange were predominant in creating vivid landscapes of wheat fields, again Van Gogh’s paint strokes appearing thick and textured creating movement which juxtaposed against the dry atmosphere of the summer heat in his landscapes.

There is a surprise at the end of the seasons with one expressive self-portrait. His 1887 oil on canvas self-portrait was a highlight, as his self-portraits are a famous part of his career. It was greatly appreciated by viewers with a busy crowd gathered to catch a glimpse.

Van Gogh's famous Self-portrait, Autumn, 1887, Paris, oil on canvas

Van Gogh’s famous Self-portrait, Autumn, 1887, Paris, oil on canvas

 

Van Gogh and the Seasons is a wonderful exhibition, which is the first ever to focus solely on Van Gogh’s passion for nature, which is very special as the works displayed were diverse, further giving the viewer a more intimate insight into his life at that time. If you are inspired and appreciative of Van Gogh’s work this exhibition is well worth a visit.

You can catch Van Gogh and the Seasons at the NGV until July 9th 2017.

 

Celeste Marinelli

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