Becoming Van Gogh, an in-depth exploration of Vincent van Goghs unconventional path to becoming one of the worlds most recognizable artists, will be on view at the Denver Art Museum
from October 21, 2012, through January 20, 2013. The exhibition examines critical steps in the largely self-taught artists evolution through more than 70 paintings and drawings by Van Gogh, along with works by artists he responded to. Organized by the DAM and curated by Timothy J. Standring, Gates Foundation Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the DAM and Louis van Tilborgh, Senior Researcher of Paintings at Amsterdams Van Gogh Museum, Becoming Van Gogh brings together loans from more than 60 public and private collections from across Europe and North America to tell the story of a number of key formative periods throughout the artists career.
This is a unique opportunity for our audience to discover how Van Gogh arrived at his iconic style and gain new insights into his influences, said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. We are thrilled to bring together an exhibition that will give visitors new insight into one of the worlds greatest artists.
By focusing on the various stages of Van Goghs artistic development, Becoming Van Gogh illustrates the artists initial foray into mastering draftsmanship, understanding the limitations and challenges of materials and techniques, learning to incorporate color theory and folding a myriad of influences, including other artists, into his artistic vocabulary. No other exhibition has focused so intensely on Van Goghs personal growth and progression in his journey toward his own personal style.
Becoming Van Gogh will take visitors on a journey through the artists stylistic development via his dramatic paintings and drawings. Throughout each section, critical developments in his personal style are called out, illustrating how Van Goghs well-known signature form developed. The exhibition begins with a focus on how Van Gogh imbued his early works with energy and verve as he strove to master drawing with graphite, ink and washes; how he begin to understand color with watercolor paintings; and how he began to test his skill with oils on canvas. Van Gogh turned all of his creative energies towards mastering the tools that would enable him to render the visual world as he saw it by learning as much as he could about the formal elements of art, color theory, painting techniques, compositional methods and more.
Visitors will see Van Goghs artistic maturation through works created after his arrival in Paris. His Parisian period, from 1886 to 1888, is perhaps the crucial period of his professional career because his artistic temperament shifted from works focused on social subject matter to works driven largely by aesthetic and artistic concerns. This, the heart of the exhibition, is the period when he strove to attain a considerable degree of artistic self-confidence by responding to the stylistic and ideological shifts of the Parisian art world happening at the same time. During this eventful two-year period, Impressionism mounted its eighthand lastofficial group exhibition, Seurat startled the world at the annual exhibition Salon des Indépendants with his use of divisionism in the painting Un Dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte, Signac and Pissarro followed his example with a softened variant known as pointillism, Bernard launched a salvo of synthetism and Toulouse-Lautrec recorded the bohemian culture of Montmartre.
Acutely aware of these avant-garde trends and working closely with artists such as Émile Bernard and Paul Signac, Van Gogh both experimented with and eventually transformed these styles into something wholly personal and unique. During this time Van Gogh met and interacted with many of these artists, all of whom are represented by significant works in the exhibition.
This exhibition demonstrates Van Goghs conscious decision to commit himself as an artist, said exhibition curator Timothy Standring, pointing out that the man best known for his paintings also tried out other careersincluding an assistant art dealer and minister. His work was systematic and rational as he sought to arrive at his personal style, not simply the result of emotional outbursts of creativity.