In January 2010, the Royal Academy of Arts will stage a landmark exhibition of the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). The focus of the exhibition will be the artist’s remarkable correspondence. Over 35 original letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, will be on display in the main galleries of Burlington House, together with around 65 paintings and 30 drawings that express the principal themes to be found within the correspondence. Thus the exhibition will offer a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the complex mind of Vincent van Gogh. This will be the first major Van Gogh exhibition in London for over forty years.
In addition to lending almost all the letters in the exhibition, the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, has made available twelve important paintings. Other major lenders include the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, together with other museums and private collections worldwide.
Born in Zundert in the southern Netherlands in 1853, Van Gogh was the second of six children of a Protestant pastor. In his early adult life, he worked for a firm of art-dealers in The Hague and London, before becoming a missionary worker. His career as an artist began only in 1880, when he was 27. During his ten-year artistic career, which his suicide cut tragically short in 1890, Van Gogh’s output was prodigious: largely self-taught, he produced over 800 paintings and 1,200 drawings.
Van Gogh was a compulsive and eloquent correspondent. The majority of his letters were written to his brother Theo, an art-dealer who supported Vincent throughout his difficult artistic career. Vincent also wrote to other family members, including his sister Wilhelmina. Other artists, notably Anton van Rappard, Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, were also, at different phases of Vincent’s life, recipients of his letters. The originality of his ideas about art, nature and literature, combined with his deep understanding of these subjects, make Van Gogh’s letters much more than a personal expression of feelings: they attain the status of great literature. In reading the letters one encounters not only a sensitive, determined and exceptionally hardworking man, but also someone possessed of a powerful intellect; this exhibition will challenge the view that Van Gogh was an erratic genius by allowing the viewer a rare insight into his artistic process through the intimate medium of his correspondence. Together the letters create a ‘self portrait’, and reveal the ways in which Van Gogh defined himself as an artist and as a human being.
Taking the letters as its starting point, The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters will view the paintings and drawings from the perspective of the correspondence. The letter sketches that Van Gogh frequently used to show a work in progress or a completed work are a fascinating part of the correspondence, and many will be shown alongside the paintings or drawings on which they are based.
Highlights of the exhibition will include Self-portrait as an Artist (1888) and The Yellow House (1888) from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; Still-life: Drawing Board with Onions (1889) from the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Vincent’s Chair with His Pipe (1888) from the National Gallery, London; and Entrance to the Public Park in Arles (1888) from the Phillips Collection, Washington DC.
Examining such themes as the role of colour in painting, the cycles of nature, friendship, religion and literature, the exhibition will celebrate the new edition of the artist’s correspondence Vincent van Gogh – The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, that will be published by Thames & Hudson in October 2009. The result of fifteen years of scholarship by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker of the Van Gogh Museum, the complete correspondence of Vincent van Gogh will be published as a printed edition in three languages and as an integral web-edition, thereby providing the worldwide public with a wealth of new information. The exhibition is based on many insights that the new and extensive research into the letters has produced.
The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. The Academy was founded by George III in 1768. The 34 founding Members were a group of prominent artists and architects including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir William Chambers who were determined to achieve professional standing for British art and architecture. They also wanted to provide a venue for exhibitions that would be open to the public; and to establish a school of art through which their skills and knowledge could be passed to future generations of practitioners. Visit : http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/
British artist Damien Hirst has turned down an offer to become a Royal Academician at the Royal Academy in London, an institution that was founded in 1768 by King George III. The refusal was revealed by Secretary and Chief Executive Dr Charles Saumarez Smith CBE, who told the Evening Standard that he does not know the reasons of this decision. According to Saumarez Smith, there are artists who have accepted the invitation and others that have not, some of these are: Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin and Paula Rego. Other contemporary artists, such as Tracey Emin, who made her dirty bed an artistic installation, have accepted to become a Royal Academician.
Some artists who were formed in the 50s and 60s believed that the Royal Academy had become obsolete, but that has changed and the newer generations have supported the Academy.
Membership of the Royal Academy is made up of up to 80 practising artists, each elected by ballot of the General Assembly of the Royal Academy, and known individually as Royal Academicians (R.A.). The Royal Academy is governed by these Royal Academicians.
All RAs are entitled to exhibit up to six works in the annual Summer Exhibition. They also have the opportunity to exhibit their work in small exhibitions held in the Friends’ Room and are occasionally invited to hold major exhibitions in the Sackler Galleries. Many Academicians are involved in teaching in the Schools and giving lectures as part of the Royal Academy Education Programme.
Damien Hirst, the highest paid living artist and most provocative of the YBAs, is becoming a free agent. The art world’s answer to Reggie Jackson says he will sell his latest body of work at auction, circumventing de rigueur gallery sales. “The world is changing,” said Hirst, and as always, he’s ahead of the curve.
Hirst is a rare breed–both artist and salesman. This isn’t the first time he’s stunned the art world with his business savvy (and his dead animals). Back in November of 2003, the artist bought back 12 of his seminal pieces from benefactor Charles Saatchi for $15 million. By owning his key early work, Hirst sought to control his own market, deciding which pieces to hold on to or place in museums or collections. Were these works to be sold en masse, as Saatchi is known to do, the value of his works could have taken a substantial hit. This past February, Hirst also opened a store on High Street called Other Criteria, designed to “democratize” art–or at least commoditize it.
The London Original Print Fair, the longest-running specialist print fair in the world, will be celebrating twenty-three years at the Royal Academy of Arts. Once again, the Fair is larger than ever and covers all periods of printmaking from the early woodcuts of Dürer and his contemporaries to the graphic work of contemporary masters such as David Hockney and Damien Hirst. The London Original Print Fair brings together over 40 expert dealers, all of whom have their own stock of wonderful prints which will be for sale at the Fair.