Art Buzz February 2, 2012: Vincent van Gogh: In the Eye of His Storms “Van Gogh Up Close” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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In the Eye of His Storms

Source: NYT, 2-2-12

Cincinnati Art Museum

“Undergrowth With Two Figures,” from 1890, part of the 45 paintings by van Gogh in a show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More Photos »

Vincent van Gogh was shaken but also calmed by nature. The natural landscape inspired some of his most implacably innovative paintings, roiled of surface, ablaze with color and steeped in feeling. They are blunt, irresistible instruments for seeing. Yet nature — and its tiniest details in particular — also sharpened his visual acuity and soothed and comforted his often unstable personality.

In the catalog to “Van Gogh Up Close,” a succinct, revelatory exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the art historian Anabelle Kienle notes van Gogh’s repeated references in his letters to “a blade of grass,” “a single blade of grass,” “a dusty blade of grass.” He not only thought that something this small and modest was a worthy subject for art — as demonstrated by the spare works of the Japanese artists he so admired — he also invoked it as a kind of centering technique for regaining concentration. Writing to his sister-in-law, he recommended focusing on a blade of grass as a way to calm down after the tumult of reading Shakespeare.

“Van Gogh Up Close” has been organized by Joseph J. Rishel and Jennifer A. Thompson, curators in Philadelphia, working with Ms. Kienle, a curator at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and Cornelia Homburg, an independent scholar. It examines van Gogh’s relationship to nature at its most intimate, cutting a narrow path through his achievement, with 45 often small, sometimes seemingly tossed-off paintings. In doing so it manages to lead us to the fullness of his achievement along a fresh and eye-opening route….READ MORE

Van Gogh Up Close 

WHEN AND WHERE Through May 6. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

MORE INFORMATION (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org.

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