Becoming Van Gogh, an in-depth exploration of Vincent van Gogh’s unconventional path to becoming one of the world’s most recognizable artists, will be presented at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) from October 21, 2012 through January 20, 2013. The exhibition examines critical steps in the largely self-taught artist’s evolution through more than 70 paintings and drawings by Van Gogh, along with works by artists to whom he responded. 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 Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, Becoming Van Gogh brings together loans from more than 60 public and private collections throughout Europe and North America to tell the story of a number of key formative periods throughout the artist’s career.
“This is a unique opportunity for our audience to discover how Van Gogh arrived at his iconic style and deepen their understanding of 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 world’s greatest artists.”
By focusing on the various stages of Van Gogh’s artistic development, Becoming Van Gogh illustrates the artist’s 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 the work of other artists, into his artistic vocabulary. No other exhibition has focused so intensely on Van Gogh’s personal growth and progression as he developed his own personal style.
Becoming Van Gogh will take visitors on a journey through the artist’s stylistic development via his dramatic paintings and drawings. Divided into three main sections, 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 began 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.
By the time he arrived in Paris—which constitutes the largest section of the exhibition—visitors will see Van Gogh’s further maturation as an artist. His Parisian period, from 1886 to 1888, represents a crucial phase of his professional career, when his focus shifted from 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 underway in the Parisian art world at the time. During this eventful two-year period, Impressionism hosted its eighth (and last) official group exhibition, Seurat startled the world at the Salon des Indépendants with his divisionism in 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 personally met and interacted with many of these artists, all of whom are represented by significant works in the exhibition. “This exhibition demonstrates Van Gogh’s conscious decision to commit himself as an artist,” said Standring, pointing out that the man best known for his paintings also tried out other careers—including 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.”
Becoming Van Gogh is a ticketed exhibition. Further details, including group ticket sale prices, will be announced in early 2012. DAM members will receive the best ticket prices and access to special exhibition programming. Becoming Van Gogh is organized by the Denver Art Museum. Additional support is provided by the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) and the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign.