Major Van Gogh exhibition opens in Ottawa

Here’s a heads up for art lovers. Beginning Friday, May 25th the National Gallery Of Canada is presenting “Van Gogh: Up Close”, described as the first major showing of the famed Dutch artist in this country in over 25 years. Ottawa will be the only stop in Canada.

The same show just closed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as reviewed here by the New York Times.

As Ottawa’s exhibit web page describes:

It brings together more than 40 of Van Gogh’s paintings from private and public collections around the world, as well as a selection of Japanese woodblock prints, nineteenth-century photographs, and works on paper from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

This exhibition explores Van Gogh’s love for nature and his gift for representing the world around him, from landscapes down to the smallest blade of grass.

For many, there’s just something about Van Gogh’s work, or his troubled life, that captures attentive fascination. A number of articles in the Ottawa Citizen speak to this, as with “What makes Van Gogh so great” by Peter Simpson. Simpson also wrote up a preview of the show:

There is so much to see in this exhibition, and the open configuration of the various rooms creates a pleasing spaciousness that allows you to look back or forward into other rooms, enhancing the continuity of the tour through his brief career.

There are also 19th-century photographs like those van Gogh would have seen. Be sure to seek out Adolphe Braun’s 1855 photograph of white and dark roses, each as proud a rose as you’ll ever see. There are also Japanese prints, from the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum and of the sort that had such an influence on van Gogh.

Nowhere is the Japanese influence more clear than in Almond Blossom, from 1890, an intimately personal work. A few almond branches jut into a blue sky, simple and uncluttered, the birth of something new and pure. Van Gogh painted it for his new nephew, also named Vincent, and it is a testament to life and rejuvenation.

Here’s a video of guest currator Dr. Cornelia Homburg discussing the show’s significance. The admission price of $25 is also significant, but that’s to be expected, I suppose. This is the big time, after all! (Thankfully, there are price breaks for students, seniors and families.)

You can also make the quick hop across the Ottawa River to the Museum of Civilization’s Imax Theatre to see “Van Gogh: Brush With Genius“. (It’s close enough to walk, actually. With spectacular views along the way.)

Movie critic Jay Stone said the movie has a few problems such as “…some time-lapse scenes of crowds moving through a Van Gogh exhibit … you get a biopic that is disconcertingly post-modern when it should be a little more impressionistic.” Still, overall, Stone says the experience is redeemed by the art:

This Imax film puts some 40 masterpieces on the big screen in close-ups so intimate you feel you could ski down the impasto. Vincent Van Gogh was known for the thick layering of brilliant colours – notably what the film calls the “high yellow note” – and the large-format camera captures the details of his frantic passion. The swirl of his suns and his sunflowers, the jabs of colour in the wild skies, the plastered reds and greens hidden in faces (Van Gogh was an advocate of the amplifying effects of complimentary colours) fill the screen with glory.

“Van Gogh: Up Close” runs through September 3rd at the National Gallery.

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4 Comments on “Major Van Gogh exhibition opens in Ottawa”

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  1. dan3583 says:

    It’s worth the $25 just to see Irises in the flesh…as it were. It will take your breath away.

  2. Lucy Martin says:

    I should mention that this Sat and Sun (May 26-27) is Ottawa Race Weekend. Numerous short distances plus a half-marathon and full marathon.

    There will be big crowds and road closures.

    Plan accordingly, or go see “Irises” in the flesh some other week!

    And good luck to all the runners.

  3. Newt says:

    Great info! My spouse and I love Van Gogh (she has great artististic sensitivity while I have almost none, but still I “get” him). We were in Provence last month, where Van Gogh painted most of his masterpieces, went insane, and died, and while there are many memorials to him there, none of his original paintings remain.
    This will give us an excuse to return to Ottawa, if not this weekend.

  4. BB ny says:

    Thanks so much for this article. I’ll definitely be making the trip. Can’t wait.

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