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Vincent Van Gogh: Marais aux nénuphars, June 1881. Pencil, quill, and Indian ink on paper. Photograph: catalogue.

Vincent Van Gogh: Vue d'Arles avec iris et prairie, May 1888. Oil on canvas. Photograph: catalogue.

Vincent Van Gogh: Oliviers. September (?) 1889. Oil on canvas. Photograph: catalogue.

Vincent Van Gogh
Catalogue & exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda -
Exhibition in Martigny, Switzerland, from June 21 until November 26, 2000
Article added in July 2000

Vincent Van Gogh's (1853-1890) fame largely comes from romantic ideas about the tormented, isolated and unrecognized genius who committed suicide. The exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny offers the possibility to discover another facet of the artist: the calm side of a man who was struggling and suffered emotional setbacks, no doubt, but who was also a serene observer of ordinary life, who had continuing contacts with the painters Gauguin (1848-1903) and Bernard, who exchanged letters with his family (not only with his brother Theo), who remained aware of the large concerns of Paris and the world, who maintained his interest in art criticism and chose to read Shakespeare soon after entering the asylum.
In Martigny, you will find no self-portrait and no really famous painting by Van Gogh, but you can discover works never before seen in an exhibition: a head of a Nuenen peasant woman, December 1884 (cat. no. 15), and an early Dutch drawing from Liège (cat. no. 11). And there are also paintings unseen for decades: two contrasting still lifes from Nuenen, painted in the autumn of 1885 (cat. nos. 21 and 22), the Moored Boats on the Seine (cat. no. 30), the Apricot Trees in Blossom from Arles (cat. no. 45), and the expressive Olive Orchard from Saint-Rémy (cat. no. 78; see the photograph at the bottom of this page).

The ninety works by Van Gogh in Martigny illustrate his development, from a man first influenced by traditional Dutch colors, then by the French impressionists and by Gauguin, who finally found his own palette and style. Had he lived longer, he surely would have encountered success and fame, as did the impressionists, Cézanne, Matisse and the other painters who prepared the art of the 20th century.
The exhibition features some small series of works: a painting that Van Gogh made in the public garden of Place Lamartine is joined by three related drawings (cat. nos. 64-67); a series of three drawings and two paintings from Arles explores Vang Gogh's confrontations with the Rhône (cat. nos. 49, 51, 59, 69, 70) - the river flows through Martigny; from Van Gogh's stay in Paris in the summer of 1887, the exhibition presents an impressive series of paintings and one drawing showing his exploration of motifs of the Seine at Asnières (cat. nos. 28-39).

The catalogue's biography of Van Gogh, written by the American scholar Ronald Pickvance, who also wrote the ten-page introduction and, more importantly, is the exhibition's curator, is based on the artist's correspondence, especially the letters exchanged with his brother Theo. Van Gogh is the best-documented artist of the 19th century, therefore, Pickvance can describe his life in detail. The scholar particularly concentrates on Van Gogh's last year (from early May 1889 to July 29, 1990, the day of his death). He dedicates 34 pages to this period!

Catalogue: Vincent Van Gogh by Ronald Pickvance, bilingual (French and English), 315 p. Available at the exhibition. Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, Switzerland.

Richard Kendall, Vincent Van Gogh, John Leighton, Van Gogh Museum: Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Hardcover, Harry N. Abrams, October 1998, 160 p. ISBN: 0810963663. Get it from

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