Jackie Wullschlager reviews Van Gogh in the Borinage: The Birth of an Artist at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Mons, on view through May 17, 2015.
Wullschlager writes: "Van Gogh called these forcefully expressive yet poignantly delicate paintings 'interpretations in colour'. The monumental twin figures in 'The Diggers' are silhouetted like cutouts, lit by a fierce sun scorching the hard ground; beyond them the sky is a tenderly nuanced passage of pinks and azure touched with white highlights. 'The Sower' is showcased here alongside Paul le Rat’s 1873 etching of Millet’s image. Van Gogh has squared up the etching like a graph, then in his painting transformed the subtle monochrome gradations into exquisite modulations of blue-grey, which seem to glow, back-lit by a pale sun, lending the gnarled, solitary figure marching across the canvas an air at once sombre and ecstatic."
Kimmelman observes that "Bell has written what he describes, rightly, as an 'unmystified' and compassionate biography. It follows the encyclopedic biography by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, published in 2011, a painstaking, brilliant, almost ceaselessly downbeat account of the life that nonetheless left room for a compact, personal take like this one, by a painter-writer about a painter-writer. Bell’s sympathy for his subject abides; his prose is angelic. He outlines the life without melodrama and with just enough exasperation at Vincent’s loutish, morose, and egocentric shenanigans. The book really comes alive when Bell describes specific pictures and their mechanics. Paintings by Lautrec, he writes, are
woven together out of fine strands of color scribbled, dabbed or hatched onto a warm neutral ground—with an end result in which the weave stayed naked to the eye, so that complementary pairings such as oranges and blues electrically vibrated.
This sort of description can bring to mind how van Gogh talked about his own work."
Anderson writes: "The Musée d’Orsay exhibition, curated by Isabelle Cahn, links fragments of Artaud’s impassioned accusing essay to a formidable collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, and excerpts from Van Gogh’s letters to Artaud’s sketches. When it works, the effects can be invigorating and devastating. Dimmed by familiarity, several of Van Gogh’s paintings seem altered by the accompaniment of Artaud’s dissenting voice in the wilderness. If we have long passed the point of being able to view the paintings afresh, without the accumulated critical dreck, Artaud’s despair and righteous fury does lend an electrical charge to the works. The consensus that the wrongs heaped on Van Gogh have somehow been rectified by our adoration is undermined if not completely shattered. Consolation is not ours to give or take. It is not the case of some trite romantic suggestion that Van Gogh felt too much. Instead, there is often the sense that things are fraying at the edges and in glances... What unites Artaud and Van Gogh, as the complementary quotes underline, is a wounded hyper-lucidity; insurmountable pain, a deep appreciation of almost miraculous and transitory beauty, and a mania in enduring one and capturing the other."
Wullschlager writes: "These are modernism’s canonical stories but they have never been more comprehensively amplified, nor more ideally sited, than in the double show of some 200 works, Le Grand Atelier du Midi, taking place this summer at Marseille’s splendidly refurbished, fantastically elaborate Second Empire Palais de Longchamp, and at Aix’s Musée Granet. The Marseille exhibition, opening with Van Gogh’s scorched wheat fields and interior of his Yellow House, is more glamorous, and deals broadly with colour. At Aix a more sober account, inaugurated by Cézanne’s 'La Montagne Saint-Victoire' and 'Maison sous les arbres,' concentrates on form – so sharply delineated in the southern sunlight that the effects provoked artists to explore new abstracting or chromatic approaches."
The exhibition, which includes paintings by lesser known painters such as Jens Ferdinand Willumsen and Akseli Gallen-Kallela is "dedicated to Symbolist landscape painting... a more imaginative, emotional response to the world around them – a route which took [artists] from Naturalism to the edges of Abstraction. The exhibition will present a wide range of poetic and suggestive paintings of nature from about 1880-1910."
Andrea Kirsh reviews the exhibition Van Gogh Up Close at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on view through May 6, 2012.
Kirsch writes that a few of the paintings "rather startlingly, have no discernible focal point. They are the sort of all-over painting we associate with Abstract Expressionism; Pollock avant la lettre... The subjects of the all-over paintings exist in an undifferentiated space."
Bob Duggan previews the exhibition Van Gogh: Up Close at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on view through May 6, 2012.
Duggan writes that "The mad, sad, and dangerous to know Vincent seen through the telephoto lens of legend gives way here to a clear-eyed view of an intensely focused artist who, despite personal difficulties, achieved greatness in art and communed intimately with nature in a way not only artistically revolutionary, but also therapeutic for himself and others."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.