Through Vincent's Eyes
An exceptional gathering of works by Vincent van Gogh, in conversation with the artists and artworks that spoke to him the most, will premiere at the Columbus Museum of Art this fall. Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources, on display Nov. 12, 2021, through Feb. 6, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio, assembles more than 140 works of art by the artists who influenced Van Gogh, affording museumgoers rare insight into what spurred the Dutch artist’s own visionary work. To fully grasp how Van Gogh processed these influences, audiences will experience 17 of the painter’s signature works firsthand, including “Tarascon Stagecoach” (1888), the still-life “Roses” (1890) and the landscapes “Les Vessenots in Auvers” (1890) and “Undergrowth with Two Figures” (1890).
Through Vincent’s Eyes is organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art. In Columbus, the exhibition is co-curated by Steven Naifeh, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Van Gogh specialist, and David Stark, CMA’s chief curator emeritus. Naifeh loaned 61 works from the personal collection he shared with his co-author and late husband Gregory White Smith, a central Ohio native and Columbus Academy alumnus (together they wrote the 2011 best-selling biography “Van Gogh: The Life”). In California, the exhibition is curated by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Assistant Director and Chief Curator Eik Kahng.
“Through Vincent’s Eyes offers a fascinating glimpse into the creative process and how an extraordinary painter like Van Gogh would have been observing and absorbing the cultural milieu around him,” said Nannette Maciejunes, CMA executive director and CEO. “The Museum is exceedingly grateful to Steven Naifeh, the late Gregory White Smith, and our partners and supporters for allowing us to bring together the works that inspired some of the most popular and beloved paintings in the world.”
The exhibition features significant works by Van Gogh’s acclaimed 19th-century contemporaries, including French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin (who, like his friend Van Gogh, achieved fame after his death), Katsushika Hokusai (whose woodblock prints were collected by Van Gogh), Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Eugène Delacroix, Utagawa Hiroshige, Édouard Manet, Jean-François Millet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The similarities and divergences between the artists’ approaches will be explored through works such as Édouard Manet’s “Peonies” (1864-65), which in many ways resembles “Roses” (1890), a still life by Van Gogh painted with such heavy impasto that, according to one of the artist’s letters, it would take an entire month for the paint to dry. Van Gogh’s and Manet’s still lifes will be the highlights of a section of the exhibition that also includes a flower painting by Henri Fantin-Latour and still lifes by Jean-Seméon Chardin and Emile Bernard. Elsewhere in the installation, visitors can view Van Gogh’s “Vase with Poppies” (1886). Digital X-ray analysis of the latter still life has revealed what appears to be a self-portrait of the artist hidden beneath the surface layer of paint.
“This is an exhibition that helps make the artist’s imagination more tangible for us,” said Stark. “Van Gogh was a figure in art history known for the complicated, often troubled, path of his creative process. We gain access to another dimension of his art and life in this exhibition, another glimpse into what his world was like.”
The exhibition will also emphasize Van Gogh’s robust appetite for literature and the fictional worlds of the modern novel. The installation will include early editions of beloved novels by Charles Dickens, Guy de Maupassant, Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, to remind viewers of the books that impacted Van Gogh’s vision.
That impact is especially visible in Van Gogh’s painting “Tarascon Stagecoach” (1888), which embodies both Van’s Gogh’s ties to literary sources as well as his aesthetic debts to the artists he admired. This painting of stagecoaches parked in the southern French town of Tarascon was inspired by an 1872 novel by Alphonse Daudet. Visible in the canvas is Van Gogh’s emulation of Claude Monet’s vivid hues and Adolphe Monticelli’s heavily textured brushwork. The painting was part of a suite meant to decorate Van Gogh’s residence in Arles, France – the so-called Yellow House – in honor of the arrival of Paul Gauguin, who stayed only briefly.
Through Vincent’s Eyes presents works from more than 40 national and international public and private lenders, including the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Columbus venue will also feature Van Gogh paintings from three sister institutions in Ohio: the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art and Toledo Museum of Art.
“Greg Smith would be as honored as I am to see our collection form the basis of this extraordinary and insightful exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art, his beloved hometown institution,” said Naifeh. “He and I always looked forward to seeing works we own, by artists Van Gogh admired, hanging side by side with glorious works by Van Gogh himself.”
Public programs will include lectures and conversations on Van Gogh and the artists who inspired him by scholars from museums and universities; a program devoted to films on the life of Van Gogh; an Art Book Club selection of a novel about the artist; and a Nov. 17 concert of turn-of-the century chamber music as part of the ongoing Mozart to Matisse series with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Visit columbusmuseum.org and click on Events & Programs for a full schedule of upcoming events.
Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities and by presenting sponsor Bank of America.
Advance tickets are available to CMA members starting Aug. 1, 2021, with public ticket reservations open on Sept. 1, 2021. Members always receive free admission to special exhibitions.
Admission to CMA Tuesday through Sunday is $18 for adults, $9 for seniors (60+), students (18+) and children (4–17), free for members and children 3 and under. Special exhibition admission to Through Vincent’s Eyes is an additional $10. Admission is discounted on Thursdays – general admission is $5 on Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m., and entrance to the special exhibition on Thursday evenings is $5. General admission is free for all on Sundays.
The exhibition is presented with a distinct curatorial perspective at each institution and is accompanied by two books. “Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources,” a 320-page exhibition catalogue, is designed and produced by Lucia | Marquand Books, Seattle, and distributed by Yale University Press. This lavishly illustrated volume provides new insight into Van Gogh and his work, emphasizing his profound admiration of and deep connection with the artistic community of his time. The catalogue is edited by Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Assistant Director and Chief Curator Eik Kahng and contains essays by major Van Gogh scholars including Sjraar van Heugten.
“Van Gogh and the Artists He Loved” is written by New York Times-bestselling author,
Pulitzer Prize winner, and exhibition guest curator Steven Naifeh, co-author, with Gregory White Smith, of “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga” and “Van Gogh: The Life.” Published by Random House, the 448-page book reconstructs Van Gogh’s world and illustrates how his style and subjects are inextricably linked to the artistic environment of his era. Relying on the prolific correspondence between Vincent and his brother, Theo, the reader can enter Van Gogh’s imagination through the artist’s own words and side-by-side images of paintings by Van Gogh and works by artists who inspired him. It includes nearly 300 full-color reproductions and an afterword by Ann Dumas, Columbus Museum of Art’s adjunct curator of European Art and a curator of the Royal Academy of Art in London.
Exhibition tour schedule
–Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 12, 2021-Feb. 6, 2022
–Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, California, Feb. 27-May 22, 2022
About Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art, located at 480 East Broad Street, creates great experiences with great art for everyone. The Greater Columbus Arts Council, Nationwide Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, and the Paul-Henri Bourguignon and Erika Bourguignon Fund for Visual Arts; Bette Wallach Fund for Columbus; and Richard G. and Mary Jo Seyler funds of The Columbus Foundation provide ongoing support. CMA, Schokko Café and the Museum Store are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. CMA charges a flat rate of $5 for parking in the Museum’s East Gay lot. CMA members park for free. Tickets and updates are available at www.columbusmuseum.org and through CMA’s social media channels @columbusmuseum.