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.
Vincent Van Gogh
Catalogue & exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda -
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
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,
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.
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