Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Phillips Collection Reveals a Different Side of Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh's The Large Plane Trees

From our friends at the Phillips Collection...

DC Anticipates First Van Gogh Exhibition in 15 Years

This fall The Phillips Collection takes a fresh look at the artistic process of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). While recognized for the intensity and speed with which he painted, van Gogh also could work with careful deliberation, creating numerous versions of some of his most famous subjects. The first exhibition in Phillips Collection history devoted to the artist, Van Gogh Repetitions goes beneath the surface of some of his best-known paintings to examine how and why he repeated certain compositions during his 10-year career. More than 30 paintings and works on paper are on view at The Phillips Collection from Oct. 12, 2013, through Jan. 26, 2014.

The exhibition is the first to focus on van Gogh’s “repetitions”—a term the artist used to describe his practice of creating more than one version of a particular subject. He often began by sketching a person or landscape rapidly from life. Back in the studio, he would repeat the subject, reworking and refining his idea on a fresh canvas, in some cases many times. In contrast to the popular perception of van Gogh wielding his brush with wild abandon before nature, Repetitions shows how the artist was also methodical and controlled.

“This is a rare opportunity to get to know one of the world’s most recognizable artists in a fresh, new way,” said Dorothy Kosinski, director of The Phillips Collection. “He is such a beloved figure who has earned great renown, but there is still much more to be learned. Through a close examination of this fascinating but only partially understood aspect of his work, we can create a richer, more meaningful picture of his personal life and artistic production.”

Van Gogh Repetitions is inspired by The Road Menders (1889) in The Phillips Collection and a painting of the same subject, The Large Plane Trees (1889), in The Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibition reunites the two masterpieces—never before seen together in Washington—and invites deep, focused study of the similarities and differences between them, revealing some surprising facts about van Gogh’s process and motivation.


Examples from 13 of van Gogh’s repetitions will be on view, in some cases reunited for the first time in many years. The exhibition reveals the vitality and persistence of this method across van Gogh’s career in significant locales in the Netherlands and in France, including Paris, Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers. It brings together portraits and landscapes from some of the world’s most renowned collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. The exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to see masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, including The Bedroom at Arles (1889) and L’Arlésienne (1888).


Museum Founder Duncan Phillips first expressed his desire to acquire “examples of the inventive genius of van Gogh” in 1926. In 1930, Entrance to the Public Garden in Arles (1888)—one of the first paintings by van Gogh in an American museum—entered the collection. In 1949, Phillips acquired The Road Menders (1889), which he ranked “among the best van Goghs,” and in 1952 added House at Auvers (1890). Phillips also purchased two van Gogh works on paper: an etching of Dr. Gachet (1890) and a pencil and ink drawing of Moulin de la Galette (1887). All of these works will be on view.


A beautiful and groundbreaking catalogue, published by Yale University Press in association with The Phillips Collection and The Cleveland Museum of Art, accompanies the exhibition. It features 125 color illustrations, including numerous examples of Vincent van Gogh’s repetitions along with related works and technical studies. Essays by Phillips Chief Curator Eliza Rathbone and Cleveland Curator of Modern European Art William Robinson consider the many unresolved issues and controversies surrounding van Gogh’s repetitions, exploring their origins, development, and meaning in van Gogh’s art. Analyses of specific paintings by Rathbone, Robinson, Phillips Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele, and Cleveland Paintings Conservator Marcia Steele make use of technical and analytical examinations to understand how the artist worked. Available this fall for $50 in the museum shop and at


Van Gogh Repetitions is co-organized by The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, and The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio. After opening at The Phillips Collection, it travels to The Cleveland Museum of Art where it is on view March 2 through May 26, 2014.

The exhibition is proudly sponsored by Lockheed Martin. Additional support is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, and the Van Gogh Repetitions Committee: John and Gina Despres, Louisa Duemling, Dr. Gerald and Kay Fischer, Nancy M. Folger, B. Thomas Mansbach, Barbara and Arthur Rothkopf, Melissa J. Thompson, and George and Trish Vradenburg. The exhibition features exceptional loans from the Musée d’Orsay.


Sun., Nov. 3 (2 p.m.): An international panel of leading conservators, curators, and scholars provide a fresh look at the artist’s letters, paintings, prints, and techniques to reveal new information about his creative process.

Thurs., Nov. 7 (5–8:30 p.m.): At this Phillips after 5, time travel with Dr. Who to meet van Gogh, hunt for lookalikes in Van Gogh Repetitions, and enter a find-your-match contest for a chance to win prizes. Are you a twin or a multiple? Bring your sibling (and ID) and receive free admission without reservations.

Thurs., Nov. 14 (6:30 p.m.): Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Naifeh discusses his book Van Gogh: The Life with Phillips Chief Curator Eliza Rathbone.

Thurs., Dec. 5, (5–8:30 p.m.): The annual Dutch festival Roodharigendag (Redhead Days) and van Gogh’s fiery mane inspire a red Phillips after 5, with a collaborative art project, episodes of I Love Lucy, red food and drink, and an installation of red paintings from the permanent collection. Redheads receive free admission without reservations.

Thurs., Jan. 9 (6 p.m.): Fictionalizing van Gogh’s early years in London, the 2003 Tony Award-winning play Vincent in Brixton explores van Gogh’s first steps on his journey to becoming an artist. Gus Heagerty, resident assistant director at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, directs.

Thurs., Jan. 16 (6:30 p.m.): Chief Curator Eliza Rathbone and Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele discuss their extensive investigation of van Gogh’s repetitions around the world.

Learn more:


To ensure a comfortable visitor experience, a dated and timed ticket is required for this exhibition. Ticket reservations are available on the half-hour during museum hours. Details at

Museum members are admitted free of charge, no timed ticket necessary. For unlimited free admission to Van Gogh Repetitions, including exclusive members-only hours and tours, join the museum today:

Hours: Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m. –5 p.m.; Thurs. extended hours, 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

Closed: Closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day

Location: 1600 21st Street, NW (at Q Street)

Metro: Red Line, Dupont Circle Station (Q Street exit) and via several bus lines
Admission: $12

Discounted Admission: $10 for seniors 62 and over and students with valid ID

Free Admission: Kids 18 and under, Phillips members

NOTE: The permanent collection is always free on weekdays.

Tickets: Available at the museum and


The Phillips Collection is one of the world’s most distinguished collections of Impressionist and Modern American and European art. Stressing the continuity between art of the past and present, it offers a strikingly original and experimental approach to Modern art by combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently. The setting is similarly unconventional, featuring small rooms, a domestic scale, and a personal atmosphere. Artists represented in the collection include Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Claude Monet, Honoré Daumier, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Jacob Lawrence, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others. The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, has an active collecting program and regularly organizes acclaimed special exhibitions, many of which travel internationally. The Intersections series features projects by contemporary artists, responding to art and spaces in the museum. The Phillips also produces award-winning education programs for K–12 teachers and students, as well as for adults. The museum’s Center for the Study of Modern Art explores new ways of thinking about art and the nature of creativity, through artist visits and lectures, and provides a forum for scholars through courses, postdoctoral fellowships, and internships. Since 1941, the museum has hosted Sunday Concerts in its wood-paneled Music Room. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations.