New presentation of the permanent collection of the Van Gogh Museum

Thursday, December 11, 2014
New presentation of the permanent collection of the Van Gogh Museum

The completely new presentation of the permanent collection of the Van Gogh Museum focuses on the development of Vincent van Gogh.

New presentation of the permanent collection of the Van Gogh Museum

The story of Van Gogh's life and art is the common theme of all floors of the museum; and his paintings, as well as his drawings and letters have now found a permanent place. All the myths surrounding Van Gogh – his suicide, illness and ear– will now be discussed in detail for the first time. More so than before, Van Gogh is presented in the context of his own time. His huge impact on generations after him will also be shown: the museum will demonstrate that Van Gogh has been a source of inspiration until this very day by presenting works on loan that will be regularly changed.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is one of the most famous artists of all times and he has become an icon, an almost mythical, larger than life figure. This underlying idea is the start through the spectacularly redesigned Van Gogh Museum. On the ground floor of the museum, the visitor is immediately and literally confronted with the master: a spectacular presentation of self-portraits and his only surviving palette. A video installation in the hall shows how, after his death, Van Gogh has become the important (pop)cultural icon that he is today. This visual culture determines how the general public experiences his art.

Floris Visualisaties, artist impression, still 5, courtesy Van Gogh Museum

Now, for the first time, the museum focuses on the complete story: the artist, the context, his personal ambitions, his emotions, the myths and his influence until this very day. All these aspects have contributed to Van Gogh's fame. Throughout the entire building, the permanent collection is presented as a unity and an answer will be given to the question why Van Gogh is such a universally attractive artist for many millions of admirers.

The main theme in the new presentation is Van Gogh's development into one of the greatest artists ever, a story told in various sections. Van Gogh experienced life and the world passionately, and he wanted to express in his art the major themes of the human condition - anxiety, suffering, love and hope. The accompanying texts show how Van Gogh used his distinct style of painting and use of colour to express these emotions.

Each section focuses on one crucial work that best represents Van Gogh's artistic ambitions at that particular time in his life. For example, the key painting The Potato Eaters (1885) is the focus of the "Painter of Peasant Life" section, related to the early period of Van Gogh's career. Sunflowers (1889) illustrates the "Heyday" section of the time when Van Gogh lived in the South of France, where the artist was struck by its clear light and bright colours, which inspired him to paint orchards in bloom, harvest and other nature scenes.

These important works hang on their own individual wall, so that they fully come to life and automatically take up the key role in the story. For each section, a wall is painted in a particular colour that suits the atmosphere of the subject and the art presented. The traditional white museum walls have now become something of the past: the walls have been painted in distinct colours.

Van Gogh was a talented writer and his correspondence is an important source to understand him better both as a person and as an artist. The letters are on display everywhere in the new presentation: a few original letters are displayed and visitors can listen through the headphones to fragments read out loud. The accompanying texts of the entire presentation have made extensive use of Van Gogh's own words. The visitor thus enters the world of Van Gogh himself.

The museum will also, for the first time, pay attention to Van Gogh's drawings. Van Gogh was a great draughtsman and he made circa 1100 drawings, half of which are in the Van Gogh Museum collection. Because they are very sensitive to the influence of light, these drawings can only seldom be displayed. By continually rotating a selection of circa eight drawings, some of his most ambitious pages, as well as special sketches and preparatory drawings will be on display.

Everybody is familiar with the stories about Van Gogh's illness, his partly severed ear and his death. Previously, this was only touched upon in combination with a painting, but from now on the museum will pay attention to the myths in a separate section: a step-by-step presentation of letters, documents and long-term research will show what really happened. This way, the museum meets a great public demand.

Blowup, Floris Visualisaties, 2014, courtesy Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh's hope that his work might go on inspiring the world after his death has come true: until this very day he reaches out to millions of admirers. Periodically, a special (modern) artwork will be displayed that shows to be influenced and inspired by Van Gogh. From November 2014 this will be Francis Bacon's Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh VI, on loan from the Southbank Centre, London. The huge impact of Van Gogh on the first generation of artists after his death will be shown by expressive works such as those by Maurice de Vlaminck and Kees van Dongen from the museum's own collection.

More information is here.

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