The Van Gogh exhibit at the DIA carries a unique opportunity probably never to really be done on its level at any other time. True to my belief, it boasted many of his works, including some really stunning portraits of the entire Roulin family, something I think has never been collected together. He really was an artist for only ten years, from 1880-1890, and he taught himself, never really picking up any major academic tutelage. While the collection lacked any important final works, such as the Starry Night paintings, Wheat Field with Cypresses, or the supposed final 'crows in wheatfield' piece, it had a lot of his early sketches in the early charcoal, grease pencil n' milk days.
The exhibit itself is a lifetime opportunity. Many of the portraits and sketches came from his museum, New York, Chicago, various parts of Europe, and private collections. The Roulin family alone is one of the main reasons to see it. His exhibition self-portraits totalled approximately 6, including the DIA-owned self-portrait. I stared at his works with my face one foot from the work, something the artist himself did. The thickness with which he laid his oil paint on the canvas could marvel anyone. Some of his features, such as eyelids or flowers, had a 3-D quality to them due to the thickness of the paint. I often bent down to study the brush strokes in his works, easily visible to the eye from the light shining upon them.
His self portraits beg for your attention, but aside from the Alexander Reid portrait (an art dealer friend who resembled Van Gogh closely) and a weird skull painting which begs to differ from any other piece in the collection, nothing is worth it more than the Roulin family.
Postman, Madame Augustine, Camille, Armand, and baby can all be seen at once in multiple portraits at the DIA. The entire family befriended Van Gogh in his Arles days. He painted as much of them as he did of himself, for lack of money to buy models for his work. The works are all stunning, with careful detail in each except for the examples of Madame, which appear hurried and simple, I believe because she was a busy woman with a new baby who probably had little time to pose for art.
Also on hand are his Sien sketches. For a while, he became intimate and lived with a former seamstress and prostitute who was looked down upon by Van Gogh's family and friends. They lived together with her children and I believe her mother in a house in the Hague. The withered old whore and her family were a familiar subject in his early years.
The works themselves rest open-air on the walls with no glass obstructions save one. The tour is not guided; one may stay in the Van Gogh collection until the museum closes for the day. The audio tour comes with the ticket price, and it adds helpful information to grow understanding for key portraits. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster for $18.00. The exhibit roars on through June 4, 2000.
April 15, 2000