Detroit, MI

Visit the 74-Piece Vincent Van Gogh Exhibit Now in Detroit

Rene Cizio

The Van Gogh exhibit in Detroit titled “Van Gogh in America” at the Detroit Institute of Arts displays 74 paintings, drawings, and prints by the Dutch Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh. It’s one of the largest exhibitions of his work in this century, and unless you travel to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, it’s the only way to see so many Van Goghs in one place. They will be displayed from Oct. 2 until Jan. 22, 2023.

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Rene Cizio

If you’ve read my stories, you know I’m a huge Van Gogh fan. I’ve been anticipating this exhibit for two years – since the original date was pushed back due to COVID-19. Previously, I’ve visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and many others worldwide to see his work and traveled to the places he painted in Paris, Auver, St. Remy and Arles. Still, when I attended the member preview, I was floored by the extensive impression collection the museum has curated.

VAN GOGH IN AMERICA

“Van Gogh in America” celebrates the DIA’s status as the first public museum in the United States to purchase a painting by Van Gogh, his Self-Portrait (1887). Though Van Gogh died in 1890, it took his sister-in-law, Jo Bonger, many years to gain acclaim for his work. The DIA’s first purchase was in 1922.

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Rene Cizio

“This unique exhibition includes numerous works that are rarely on public view in the United States and tells the story – for the first time – of how Van Gogh took shape in the hearts and minds of Americans during the last century,” said DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons.

VAN GOGH EXHIBIT

The exhibit’s theme showcases how American museums, especially those in the Midwest, were the first to purchase and embrace Van Gogh as an artist. The show features a lovely, illustrated booklet with images and essays by curator Jill Shaw and Van Gogh scholars to tell the story. Featured works from these museums include the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (Olive Trees; 1889), Missouri; Saint Louis Art Museum Stairway at Auvers 1890); and Toledo Museum of Art (Wheat Fields with Reaper, Auvers, 1890).

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Rene Cizio

The first of nine galleries opened with just one painting: “Van Gogh’s Chair” from 1888. It’s a poignant and personal painting, though only of his chair, that many consider a self-portrait of sorts. His pipe sits on the edge of the chair as if he’s just walked away, perhaps into the following gallery.

Curators sent work from 60 locations worldwide, including a series of paintings from private collections you may not ever see anywhere else, such as “Harvest in Provence, 1888,” on loan from Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert.

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Rene Cizio

“Van Gogh in America” explores how the United States received Van Gogh’s work and how the DIA became the first U.S. museum to purchase one of his paintings. They added “Self-Portrait” (1887) to its permanent collection in 1922. Other Midwestern museums followed, but it took roughly 20 more years before a New York museum purchased Van Gogh’s work.

LUST FOR LIFE

In the final gallery, scenes from the movie “Lust for Life,” a 1956 American biographical film about Van Gogh, based on the 1934 novel by Irving Stone, play amid commentary from curators. Works shown in the film are displayed around the room. An exhibit highlight for visitors who haven’t been to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, is “Starry Night” from 1888. It’s also referred to as Starry Night over the Rhone – not to be confused with “The Starry Night” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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“How Van Gogh became a household name in the United States is a fascinating, largely untold story,” said Jill Shaw, Head of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the DIA.

VAN GOGH SHOP

In the end, a gift shop shows his art on everything from socks to ornaments and jewelry to breath mints. I love the adoration for Van Gogh, but I can’t help but think how he was an outcast and sold only one painting (The Red Vineyard to Anna Boch). Still, the exhibit book with images and descriptions of the exhibit and the art on display is worth considering.

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Rene Cizio
“I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.”
Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s art is exceptional because he saw something more than what was there and imbued special magic into everyday people, places and things. The exhibit at the DIA is a diverse, extraordinary collection. It highlights the best of Van Gogh and tells a story that is sometimes tragic but, as he knew it would be, beautiful in the end.

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Rene Cizio

VISIT THE VAN GOGH EXHIBIT

The Van Gogh in America exhibit will run from Oct. 2 through Jan. 22, 2023. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday.

Tickets are required and cost $14-$29 each.

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