Curated

The MFAH brings van Gogh paintings to Houston for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit

Curated: The Intersection of Art and Medicine


By Britni R. McAshan | March 4, 2019

Vincent van Gogh left behind an astounding collection of art created over just one decade.

More than 50 pieces by the iconic Dutch painter will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) starting March 10.

“He is a unique combination of intensity, technique and amazing imagery, which is why we love him today,” said David Bomford, the Audrey Jones Beck curator in the department of European art and chairman of the department of conservation at the MFAH. “What is amazing about van Gogh as an artist is the extraordinary brevity of his career. In this exhibit, we are looking at the entire 10-year career from when he became an artist to when he died.”

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art takes viewers through the artist’s novice drawings, his discovery of Impressionism in Paris and continues on to the end of his career in the south of France—when he created some of his best-known and most loved paintings.

“When he moved to the south of France, suddenly, this astounding clarity, brilliance and radiance took over his art,” Bomford said. “The combination of color and brushwork is something that had never been seen before.”

But while van Gogh was creating rich, colorful paintings of the French countryside,he was struggling with severe mental health issues.

“His mental state intrigues us,” Bomford said. “We don’t know exactly what mental conditions he had—there are theories as to what psychological state he was in, but clearly he was unstable. That instability, that extraordinary mental passion, just made his art all the more intense.”

Some experts have speculated that van Gogh suffered from bipolar disorder, manic depression and anxiety. In 1888, after a breakdown that led him to cut off part of his left ear, the artist was admitted to a mental health hospital in Arles, France. He was diagnosed with acute mania and generalized delirium.

“You can see changes in his works based on his mood at the time, but it is possible to read too much into that,” Bomford said. “If you look at his final works that were done just outside of Paris, they become very jagged, very angular and fierce, with dramatic brushstrokes. It is possible to read into that the severe state of his mind at that stage and it is tempting to make connections between the imagery and his mental state.”

One of van Gogh’s final paintings, Wheatfield with Crows, seems to foreshadow the artist’s eventual suicide. A reproduction of the painting will be on display at the MFAH.

“It is sort of a path going into a wheatfield and stopping, while these incredibly dramatic, sinister crows circle and wheel overhead,” Bomford said. “This piece is often perceived as being the final statement of his amazingly disturbed mental condition and it seems like a final painting before he shot himself.”

Weeks after creating Wheatfield with Crows, van Gogh apparently took his own life at age 37.

“What would he have gone on to do? That’s the most intriguing question of all,” Bomford said.

The MFAH exhibition goes far beyond the collection of paintings van Gogh created in the last few years of his life and is unlike anything that has been seen in Houston before. The exhibit is a collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands.

“It is very unusual these days to have an exhibit like this in the United States,” Bomford said. “Van Gogh’s works are quite fragile and in great demand, so they travel less and less. We have made a special relationship with these two museums—which are the greatest van Gogh collections in the world—to get these precious works here in Houston.”

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art will be on display from March 10 to June 27 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Audrey Jones Beck Building, 5601 Main St. Information: 713-639-7300




Social Posts

profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Badger Honor Flight made its first departure of 2019 early Saturday morning, traveling from Dane County Regional Airport to Washington D.C. https://t.co/GcYMc6slE7 via @WKOW

8 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Thanks to our friends at the @HoustonDynamo and other members of our Houston community who are helping to make this year’s Prom Party Palooza so special for our young patients and their families. #endcancer https://t.co/nLtrtyMSx4

8 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

A #rotationplasty can help #sarcoma survivors return to an active lifestyle. Here’s how it works. https://t.co/wGQky4R5aq @TODAYshow #endcancer https://t.co/gvYzLFh5F2

9 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

How a second-opinion pathology report changed the course of #prostatecancer survivor Kelly Andersen’s treatment: https://t.co/IUYJr5P9I2 #pcsm #CancerMoonshot #endcancer

9 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Pendleton Arts Committee starts artist selection process for Vets memorial https://t.co/il7BNQexjG via @EastOregonian

10 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Knees that pop or creak? It could be a sign of arthritis. Learn about other signs and how you can talk to your doctor about your symptoms. https://t.co/3NbegtUmV4 #arthritis

10 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @MVGutierrezMD: Excited to present tomorrow at the @McGovernMed Women Faculty Forum Career Roundtable on “Finding Your Voice” 📣🗣 #SheLea…

10 hours ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Richard Heh. Richard flew bomber missions in Europe during World War II and was captured as a prisoner of war. The Pittsburgh native joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and attended training to be a B-17 navigator in Louisiana. After completing training, he was stationed in northern England with the 351st Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, and 8th Air Force. On May 11, 1944, Richard’s crew was flying a bombing mission over Leige, Belgium when his plane was hit with shrapnel, causing a leak. The plane soon exploded and Richard was blown out of the plane unconscious. After falling nearly ten thousand feet, Richard was able to become alert and open his parachute and make a relatively safe landing on the ground. Initially, he was assisted by citizens in a small town, but was soon captured by German soldiers. Richard was taken as prisoner, and was one of only three people in the crew of ten to survive the crash. Richard was taken to Stalag Luft Ill, Sagan, Germany, an officer camp, as a prisoner of war. In January 1945, they were forced to escape the camp due to the advancing Soviet Army. They were then transferred to the Nuremburg camp, where the prisoners survived many bombing runs from the Royal Air Force. While Richard was once again being transferred to another camp in the spring, he and a friend managed to escape as they were marching through a small Bavarian town. After some time, they were captured again. Captivity would not last long, however, as the Third Army of General George Patton liberated their camp. Richard returned to Paris to be reinstated, and spent his remaining time in Europe touring Paris before returning home in October 1945. Richard retired with a Purple Heart, Air Medal, Victory in Europe medal, and Prisoner of War Medal. He then went on to finish a degree at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and pursued a career in electrical engineering until retirement at the age of 75. Richard passed away at age 86 in April 2008 at his residence in New Jersey. We honor his service.

11 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

In celebration of #EarthDay2019, the @UTexasSPH Student Association hosted a behind the scenes look at UTHealth’s sustainability activities and features. See photos from the event: https://t.co/WBfK0NeHnw #EarthDay #sustainability https://t.co/YNU5aBvHqp

11 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

What is the Pegan Diet, and is it healthy? https://t.co/jVUgTWEj0H

11 hours ago
profile_image

TAMU Health Sciences

@TAMHSC

.@DARPA has awarded a $14.2 million grant to a team led by professors at @TAMU to develop a way to quickly detect which bacterial pathogens are present in a soil or water sample. https://t.co/XbmFWrWgDt #TAMUHealth

12 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Richard Heh. Richard flew bomber missions in Europe during World War II and was captured as a prisoner of war https://t.co/oUgyjFWA36

12 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @bcmgcprogram: Interesting article about @bcmhouston faculty member Dr. Jim Lupski! https://t.co/UJv3Yy4GJA

12 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHouston_News: #ICYMI: @bcmhouston's Dr. Asim Shah sat down with @MelissaFox26 to discuss how to recognize the effects of stress and…

13 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHhousing: Check out these events happening on campus @UHouston April 22-28. 🐾🗓 https://t.co/jAXKTwb4ld

13 hours ago