Published: November 21, 2006
From November 24 to March 4, the Van Gogh Museum will present “Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism,” which is jointly organized with the Neue Galerie in New York City. This is the first show to highlight the impact of Van Gogh (1853–1890) on German and Austrian Expressionists. The exhibition comprises almost 100 paintings, prints and drawings from the Van Gogh Museum and the Neue Galerie, as well as loans from other major international museums and private collections, including major works by artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Pechstein, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Alexej von Jawlensky, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Van Gogh.
Museum directors and private collectors in both Germany and Austria were among the first to start buying the work of Van Gogh and by 1914 there were no fewer than 164 works by Van Gogh in German and Austrian collections. The many traveling exhibitions that were organized helped expose an entire generation of young, modern artists to Van Gogh’s expressive works.
Van Gogh’s influence is evident in many Expressionist works as painters emulated the pure, bright colors of his paintings in their own art. Van Gogh’s emphatic brushwork and his contrasting color combinations also made a profound impression. By showing works by Van Gogh side-by-side with works by young Expressionists, the exhibition reveals the full extent of this influence. Original letters, pre-1914 exhibition catalogs as well as an audiovisual presentation further enrich the display. The show is divided into four themes.
“Van Gogh and Die Brücke” is the first section. Die Brücke was founded in 1905 in Dresden by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Exhibitions of paintings and drawings by Van Gogh in Germany in 1905 and 1908 brought this group of young artists under the spell of the Dutchman’s work. This section features paintings by, among others, Max Pechstein, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel.
“Van Gogh and Der Blaue Reiter” outlines how, in Munich, the artists of Der Blaue Reiter had discovered Van Gogh’s work in Paris before viewing it in their own country. Van Gogh was a major influence, especially on their emotional approach of their early landscapes. Wassily Kandinsky’s “Murnau Street with Women” (1908, private collection, courtesy of Neue Galerie) and August Macke’s “Vegetable Fields” (1911, Kunstmuseum Bonn) are fine examples of this. Franz Marc drew inspiration from Van Gogh’s technique.
In “Van Gogh and Vienna” visitors will learn how work by Van Gogh shown in Vienna in 1903 and 1906 inspired local artists with his innovative technique. These artists also emulated Van Gogh’s intense, psychological approach to portraiture, as the astonishing figures painted by Oskar Kokoschka demonstrate. Richard Gerstl and Egon Schiele identified with Van Gogh’s tragic personality in their many portraits and self portraits. Schiele also painted versions of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”
Schiele’s painting “Autumn Sun” (1914, private collection), showing fading sunflowers, was feared lost since World War II and is one of the surprises of the show. It will be displayed alongside Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).
The final section of the exhibition focuses on Van Gogh’s influence on Expressionist portraiture and self portraits. The psychologically powerful self portraits by Van Gogh, which inspired artists such as Emil Nolde, Erich Heckel and Lovis Corinth, are presented alongside penetrating self portraits by these Expressionist artists. Their use of pose, introspective expression and piercing eyes, combined with intense brushwork, clearly reveal Van Gogh’s influence.
Following its debut in Amsterdam, “Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism” can be seen in the Neue Galerie from March 23 to July 2.
The Van Gogh Museum is on Museumplein in Amsterdam, between the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum. The museum entrance is at Paulus Potterstraat 7. For information, 20 570 5200 or www.vangoghmuseum.nl.
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