Current and coming: Variations on van Gogh

Sarah Bilotta Exhibitions

The Wheatfields by van Gogh, 1888. Honolulu Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Richard A. Cooke and family in memory of Richard A. Cooke.

You’ve probably seen photos of friends, colleagues, or strangers you follow on social media posing in the light-drenched galleries of one of the many “immersive van Gogh” exhibitions on in cities across the country. These shows feature wallsized projections of van Gogh paintings tricked out with special effects such as animated swirling starlight. But, for those looking to truly immerse themselves in the world of this post-impressionist icon, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a deeper and more traditional (though perhaps less Instagrammable) encounter with van Gogh’s work.

Two current exhibitions—one at the Dallas Museum of Art and the other at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio—seek to peel apart the layers of rich, vivid color that painted van Gogh’s life. A joint venture between the Columbus Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Through Vincent’s Eyes: van Gogh and His Sources presents a cornucopia of works made by van Gogh’s heroes, peers, and friends. After all, to understand The Starry Night, one must first understand the explosive line work of Japanese printmaking artists like Hokusai, all too often ignored in popular discussions of van Gogh’s creative sources. Through Vincent’s Eyes is a story told largely through the personal collection of van Gogh biographer Steven Naifeh, a Pulitzer Prize winner whose rich collection includes works of French and Dutch realism and avant-garde French abstraction.

At the Dallas Museum of Art, Van Gogh and the Olive Groves invites visitors to take a focused look at the final year of van Gogh’s life. This is the first exhibition dedicated to the series the artist produced while a patient at the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum in Provence. It showcases pictures of gnarled, fantastical olive trees presented at different times of day and in different seasons. These works are as personal as any of the visions in the artist’s body of work: they represent not only the monotony of van Gogh’s life in psychiatric captivity, but also the refuge he took in the wondrous French countryside. There is likely some attraction to the virtual-reality experience of Sunflowers or any other number of fan favorites, but for art aficionados hungry for a new story, both the Columbus Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art have much richer fare to offer.

The Olive Trees by Vincent van Gogh, 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest; photograph © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources • Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH • to February 6 •

Santa Barbara Museum of Art • February 27 to May 22 •

Van Gogh and the Olive Groves • Dallas Museum of Art • to February 6 •