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Van Gogh's Van Goghs
Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
October 4, 1998 – January 3, 1999
West Building Main Floor

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 72 paintings were included in the exhibition, the largest survey of Van Gogh's art presented outside the Netherlands in more than 25 years. 70 of the paintings were on loan from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, during its renovation. Included were such well-known works as Potato Eaters (1885), The Bedroom (1888), Self-Portrait as an Artist (1888), Harvest (1888), and Wheatfield with Crows.

Free, timed passes were required to enter the exhibition. Beginning August 20, advance passes were distributed by TicketMaster and at the Gallery. These were exhausted within a few days. During the exhibition, a limited number of same-day passes were distributed at the West Building pass desk in the Rotunda. Lines for these tickets formed well before the museum opened to the public, and on weekends and holidays well before dawn. On most days, same-day passes were distributed before noon.

Programs exploring diverse aspects of Van Gogh's career included lectures, a concert of music by composers who were Van Gogh's contemporaries, and a series of biographical and documentary films on the artist.

Exhibition Summary:
People must know that he was a great artist.
Theo van Gogh to his sister Lies, August 1890

Van Gogh sold only a handful of pictures during his lifetime. Upon his death, his works became the possession of his younger brother, Theo, an art dealer who had supported him morally and financially throughout his career. Theo died six months after Vincent, however, and responsibility for the paintings fell to his widow, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, who dedicated the rest of her life to promoting Van Gogh's art. Although she sold a number of paintings in order to spread knowledge of the artist, she kept many works representative of every phase of his career. Her son, Vincent Willem van Gogh, who inherited the collection in 1925, eventually placed it on loan to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In 1962, it was transferred to the Vincent van Gogh Foundation created at the initiative of the Dutch state.

Plans for the construction of a museum devoted to Van Gogh began and, in 1963, the Dutch modernist architect Gerrit Rietveld was commissioned to design it. The museum opened in 1973. In addition to some two hundred paintings, five hundred drawings, and seven hundred letters by the artist, it houses the works Van Gogh had received by exchange from his artist friends, and his collection of Japanese prints. It also includes a selection of nineteenth-century paintings, drawings, and prints by Van Gogh's predecessors and contemporaries. Now under renovation, the Van Gogh Museum is scheduled to reopen in May 1999, with a new wing designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Philip Conisbee, senior curator of European paintings, National Gallery of Art, was curator.

Sponsor: Support from Andersen Consulting made the exhibition in Washington possible. The exhibition was supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Attendance: 480,496

Catalog: Van Goghs Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, by Richard Kendall, with contributions by John Leighton and Sjraar van Heugten. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1998.

Brochure: Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, by Isabelle Dervaux. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1998.

Other Venues: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, January 17–April 4, 1999

Image: Vincent van Gogh, Roulin's Baby, 1888, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, 1963.10.31

Download a free PDF of the exhibition catalog