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"van Gogh: The Last Landscapes"
2007-06-12 until 2007-09-16
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Madrid, , ES Spain

On 20 May 1890, Vincent Van Gogh got off the train in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village an hour from Paris. A week before, he had left the asylum in Saint-Rémy after a year spent there as a patient. Van Gogh came in search of a tranquil, rural place in which to recover his health and peace of mind. He hoped to begin a new life and a new phase of work as a painter. Just two months later, however, on 27 July, in the fields near the château of Auvers, he shot himself with a revolver and died two days later after great suffering in the early morning of 29 July. Opening on 12 June, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid is presenting the first exhibition to be devoted entirely to the works executed by Van Gogh in the last three months of his life spent in Auvers. This

This was a very brief but extraordinarily creative period, and during these last weeks of his life, Van Gogh also became more conscious of his artistic debt to his predecessors. The exhibition is sponsored by Banco Caixa Geral and Fidelidade Mundial.

Van Gogh. The Last Landscapes, promoted with the collaboration of Consorcio Turístico de Madrid, brings together 29 works (26 paintings and 3 drawings) lent from museums and private collections world-wide. It also includes 6 paintings by Van Gogh’s great predecessors - Daubigny, Pissarro and Cézanne - who had painted in Auvers before him and whose presence the artist felt in its landscape. All the works by Van Gogh in the exhibition belong to his Auvers period and they include one of the Museum’s own masterpieces: “Les Vessenots” in Auvers.

The Auvers period

In a period of only 70 days, Van Gogh produced around 72 paintings, 33 drawings and a print. It was as if the artist was aware that his days were numbered and that little time remained to him. He got up at five in the morning and spent all day painting in the fields or in the village streets. In a letter, he wrote: “These days I work a lot and quickly; in doing so I try to express the desperately fast passing of things in modern life”. This frenetic rhythm was at times expressed in a bold and rapid manner of execution, but we also find remarkably serene works of this date. It has always been acknowledged that the Auvers period resulted in a number of masterpieces but overall these months have sometimes been seen to mark a decline in Van Gogh’s work. Up to now, little attempt has been made to compare its particular characteristics with those of other phases in the artist’s career.

After his time in Provence, Auvers represented for Van Gogh a return to the landscape of the north, to which he had devoted so much thought. In Auvers he rediscovered the rural subjects and life of his youth, which he had lost when he left Neunen. By thinking about the Dutch fields he also rediscovered the gaze of the great 17th-century Dutch landscape painters whom Van Gogh had always profoundly admired.

Stylistically, the Auvers period did not mark a break with the previous one, but the artist’s style was clearly evolving. The roots of Van Gogh’s style continued to be his training as a draughtsman during his Dutch phase of 1880-1882. The entire graphic repertoire which he developed since that time, specifically his vocabulary of dots, long and short strokes, either broken or undulating and first tried out with pen, would subsequently be translated onto canvas; drawing with colour is the key feature of all his late work. In Auvers, Van Gogh focused less on naturalistic details and his strokes became more numerous and twisting, producing arabesques in the trees and houses, waves in the cornfields and curving movements and rhythms of enormous dynamic vitality.

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