This fall, the Clyfford Still Museum
presents a focused exhibition exploring connections between Vincent Van Gogh and Clyfford Stillin particular those found during the initial decades of the latters career, before the crystallization of what would become his signature Abstract Expressionist style. Opened September 14, 2012, Vincent/Clyfford coincides with the Denver Art Museums landmark presentation Becoming Van Gogh (October 21, 2011 through January 20, 2013), and is complemented by a series of public programs that invite visitors to discover parallels in the work and creative visions of the 19th-century Dutch painter and 20th-century American artist. The exhibition is curated by David Anfam, the Museums Adjunct Curator, and will remain on view in the Hugh Grant and Merle Chambers Gallery through January 20, 2013.
As the Denver Art Museum invites visitors to explore the development of Van Goghs creative aesthetic in Becoming Van Gogh, we are excited to provide our visitors with a unique lens to examine the Dutchmans significant influence on American artists decades later and experience first-hand how it reverberated throughout Stills early work, said Dean Sobel, Director, Clyfford Still Museum. Vincent/Clyfford enlivens our understanding not only of Stills stylistic development, but also of the myriad connections that his work has to generations of artists before and after him, that we are able to examine only now, after the Museums opening.
In the early twentieth century, the once-neglected Van Gogh became highly regarded among European artists, collectors, and critics. By the 1920s, Van Gogh had attained huge popularity in the United States, culminating in the 1930s with Irving Stones romanticized biography Lust for Life (1934) and the Museum of Modern Arts blockbuster retrospective the following year.
Vincent/Clyfford features approximately 20 paintings and works on paper created by Still during this formative period of his career, from the late 1920s and 1930s. These works display direct parallels with Van Goghs preferred subject matterincluding vignettes of agrarian labor, moody landscapes treated as soul-scapes, and dark interior scenesas well as his use of the grotesque to accentuate the plight of human beings living on the edge. Stills tough childhood experiences farming on the prairies of Alberta, Canada, aligned him with Van Goghs own close identification with the land and those who toiled on it to survive and both artists interpreted these experiences and perspectives into their creative output. Cycles of growth, decay, and rebirth in their work are evoked in their through recurrent symbols such as corn, the sun, and the sower. Stills paintings also echo Van Goghs in their rich color palette and heavily troweled painterly surfaces.
We are certain Clyfford Still identified with Vincent Van Gogh on myriad levels, not least of which was their shared commitment to art as a kind of religious faith, and their mutual sense of themselves as outsiders, said Anfam. Both envisioned the role of the artist as a kind of moral force within society, and neither painter was afraid of pictorial ugliness as an expression of sincerity in their respective creative output.
The exhibition includes extended wall text as well as interpretive materials that illustrate reproductions of Van Gogh works so that visitors can explore these aesthetic, gestural, and thematic comparisons directly. In addition, the Still Museum will launch a series of special gallery talks and public programs that invite further examination of the work and aesthetic styles of these two iconic artists.