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Happy Birthday: Vincent van Gogh

This past Thursday, 3/30 was Vincent van Gogh's birthday. To celebrate the life and work of this iconic artist, see some pieces from the CMA's collecion below!


Landscape with Wheelbarrow, 1883, Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), watercolor and gouache over traces of graphite(?), Sheet: 24.9 x 35.7 cm (9 3/4 x 14 in); Framed: 39.8 x 52.4 x 2.6 cm (15 5/8 x 20 5/8 x 1 in). Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1958.30.

In September 1883 Van Gogh left the bustling Dutch city of The Hague in search of open countryside in which to paint. He moved to Drenthe, a village in northeastern Netherlands that was virtually untouched by the Industrial Revolution. He described the barren terrain as supremely beautiful and serene: "What tranquility, what expanse, what calmness in this nature." With a limited palette of steely greens and cool blues, Van Gogh masterfully portrayed one of the region’s expanses of heath-"a vast plane vanishing into infinity"-illuminated by the lilac hues of the evening sky.


The Poplars at Saint-Rémy, 1889, Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), oil on fabric, Framed: 80.9 x 66.6 x 7.3 cm (31 13/16 x 26 3/16 x 2 13/16 in); Unframed: 61.6 x 45.7 cm (24 1/4 x 17 15/16 in). Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1958.32

Van Gogh painted this autumnal landscape while at an asylum near Saint-Rémy in southern France. Although at first limited to painting from memory in his room, he soon resumed working outdoors. This painting reveals the full power of his mature style. Trees twist and lean against a darkening sky, while the intense colors applied with charged brushstrokes convey his emotional reaction to the subject.


The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Rémy), 1889, Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), oil on fabric, Framed: 104.5 x 124.5 x 7.6 cm (41 1/8 x 49 x 3 in); Unframed: 73.4 x 91.8 cm (28 7/8 x 36 1/8 in). Gift of the Hanna Fund 1947.209

In May 1889, Van Gogh voluntarily committed himself to an asylum near the small town of Saint-Rémy in Provence. His doctors soon gave him permission to paint on day excursions to surrounding fields. While walking through Saint-Rémy that November, he was impressed by the sight of men repairing a road beneath immense plane trees. "In spite of the cold," he wrote to his brother, "I have gone on working outside till now, and I think it is doing me good and the work too." Rushing to capture the yellowing leaves, he painted this composition on an unusual cloth with a pattern of small red diamonds visible in the picture's many unpainted areas.


Adeline Ravoux, 1890 Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890), oil on fabric, Framed: 72.5 x 73.5 x 8.5 cm (28 1/2 x 28 7/8 x 3 5/16 in); Unframed: 50.2 x 50.5 cm (19 3/4 x 19 7/8 in). Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1958.31

In May 1890, Van Gogh left the south and settled in Auvers, a small town north of Paris, where he rented a room at the inn of Arthur Ravoux. This portrait, completed during the last months of the artist’s life, depicts Ravoux’s 13-year-old daughter, Adeline. Van Gogh wrote that rather than photographic resemblance, he wanted his portraits to convey the “impassioned aspects” of contemporary life through the “modern taste for color.”

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