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"Van Gogh: Face to Face"
2000-03-12 until 2000-06-04
Detroit Institute of Arts
USA United States of America
Van Gogh: Face to Face is the first comprehensive museum
exhibition devoted exclusively to Vincent van Gogh's achievements in portraiture. It explores the
full range of his portrait activity—from his earliest drawings and character studies to his numerous
self-portraits and likenesses of friends—and spans the entire course of his brief but intense career.
The exhibition, organized chronologically, is divided equally between drawings and paintings. The
majority of the drawings date from early in van Gogh's career, when he was still working in his
native Netherlands before going to France. These drawings, of the urban poor and peasants, were
more studies of character types than likenesses of specific people. The focus shifts to identifiable
portrait subjects after the artist moves to France, working first in Paris, then in Arles and Saint-Rémy
in southern France, and, finally, in Auvers. Many of van Gogh's most renowned oil portraits and
self-portraits date from his time in France.
Van Gogh was a prolific letter writer and his correspondence reveals his commitment to portraiture
and the high esteem in which he held the genre from the beginning of his career to the end. What
impassions me most—much, much more than all the rest of my métier—is the portrait, the modern
portrait, he wrote in 1890. Most of his letters to friends and family, especially those to his brother
Theo, survive and shed light on van Gogh's wide-ranging concerns relating to the world of art at
large as well as his own more immediate concerns as an artist.