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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:16

Van Gogh Paintings go on View in Arles

On April 7, the Fondation Vincent van Gogh opened a gallery in Arles, France, dedicated to continuously displaying the works of Vincent van Gogh. Despite the fact that Arles played a pivotal role in the artist’s personal life and career, the city has only hosted two temporary exhibitions of Van Gogh paintings -- one in 1951 and another in 1989.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Colours of the North, Colours of the South,” features nine paintings by van Gogh and 21 works by his contemporaries. One of the van Gogh paintings, a self-portrait from 1887, has been loaned to the gallery by Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, which has agreed to assist the Arles endeavor. The exhibition will remain on view through August 31 and the self-portrait will remain on loan until next spring.

The Arles project is being funded by Luc Hoffmann, heir to the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceutical company. Hoffmann donated €12m to convert a 15th-century mansion, which previously housed the Hôtel Léautaud de Donines, into the van Gogh gallery. He will also cover operating costs for the next five years. The city of Arles provided the building.

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On May 1, 2013 the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam will re-open after being closed for months due to ongoing renovations. The exhibition that will inaugurate the newly updated space is Van Gogh at Work, an extensive overview of Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) oeuvre that happens to coincide with the 160th anniversary of the artist’s birth. What the Van Gogh Museum kept quiet until now is that the exhibition will reveal research amassed during an eight-year analysis of the artist’s work.

The project, which was led by scientists at Shell in collaboration with the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency and curators at the Van Gogh Museum, entailed analyzing hundreds of van Gogh’s canvases, pigments, letters, and notebooks. The research provided previously unknown insights into van Gogh’s temperament and personality. Contrary to popular belief spurred by the artist’s struggles with mental illness, van Gogh was not a manic painter, but painstakingly methodical. The use of an electric microscope and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry revealed that van Gogh used grids to accurately portray proportions and to create precise depth of field in his early landscapes.

Another insight the researchers uncovered involved van Gogh’s pigments. Tests done at the Shell Global Solutions labs revealed that some of the pigments used by van Gogh were chemically unstable and faded prematurely. In particular, scientists discovered that the color of the walls in van Gogh’s seminal painting The Bedroom was inaccurate. Van Gogh had used red and blue paints to create a violet hue but the red faded, leaving behind a much bluer color than he intended.

Beginning in September, the Van Gogh Museum will exhibit two versions of The Bedroom – one from its own collection and one from the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. Van Gogh painted three versions of his room in Arles between 1888 and 1889 and all three of them have the same blue-hued walls. The presentation will also include a digital reconstruction of what the painting may have looked like when van Gogh first created it.

Van Gogh at Work will be on view through January 12, 2014.

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On February 19, 2013 the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will present one of Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) most well known paintings, Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, to the public. The work, which is being loaned to the DIA by the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, will be exhibited in the museum’s Dutch galleries along with three other van Gogh paintings owned by the Detroit Institute.

Van Gogh created three nearly identical paintings of his bedroom; the first rendition was completed in 1888 and is currently part of the Van Gogh Museum’s collection in Amsterdam. After the initial work was damaged in a flood, van Gogh made two copies of the painting, one of which is in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection and the other, which belongs to the Musée D’Orsay.

The additional works to be exhibited alongside Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles are The Diggers, an interpretation of Jean-Francois Millet’s (1814-1875) painting by the same name, The Portrait of the Postman Roulin, which was painted in van Gogh’s house in Arles, and Self-Portrait, which was completed just before van Gogh moved to Arles from Paris.

The van Gogh paintings will be on view at the DIA through May 28, 2013.

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Energy efficient LED lighting, which is widely used in museums across the world, has altered the color of Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) famous Sunflowers (1888). Once a vivid yellow hue, van Gogh’s masterpieces are darkening; scientists have discovered that certain yellow pigments from the 19th century become unstable after exposure to LED lights, turning them a brownish green over time.

Researchers in France and Germany sampled 14 works dating from 1887 to 1890 and tested for the reaction, which affects the oil paint color chrome yellow. A popular pigment at the time, artists such as Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) often used chrome yellow in their paintings. Upon their discovery, researchers suggested that museums avoid using LED lighting on certain works and switch to a safer illumination alternative.

Van Gogh painted his sunflower series as a welcoming present for his friend, Gauguin, and planned to hang the works in the room where he was to stay while in Arles. A copy by van Gogh from the original series is on view at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

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