Kulcha – “van Gogh and Britain”, Tate Britain

On Tuesday March 26th 2019 I went to Tate Britain for the member’s preview of the new van Gogh exhibition, and spent 4 hours (FOUR HOURS!) in there. This is the longest I have ever spent in one exhibition I think.

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Arriving at opening time at 10 am I grabbed an audio guide and plunged straight in, after an hour of careful listening and slow looking I’d only covered the first 3 rooms. There are 9 rooms altogether. I then joined a small guided tour for an hour before returning to the galleries from where I’d left off. I think I covered the exhibition pretty thoroughly, totally engrossing. There are paintings here that I have never seen before, not just by Van Gogh (and I’ve been to the Amsterdam museum a number of times), but also by other artists. It was especially interesting to tie van Gogh’s time in London and the art he saw there with the work of Constable, Monet, Millais and Whistler whose retrospectives I have seen in the past few years.

The main idea behind the show is that van Gogh was facinated by British culture, especially the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot, even before he arrived as a 20 year old to work in a London art gallery. So the  exhibition is divided into two parts. The first looks at Van Gogh’s experience in London, the art and literature that caught his attention and its role in his journey as an artist. This comprises not only paintings by Constable, JAM Whistler and John Everett Millais, but also many of the prints he owned.

In fact, just before I arrived I made a small detour to photograph the statue of Millais outside the Tate:

 

The second part of the show explores the impact of Van Gogh’s art and life on British artists up to the 1950s. The Tate believes that “…the exhibition provides the opportunity to view artworks by Van Gogh afresh, to see British culture through his eyes and to see him through the eyes of the British artists he inspired.”

The Guardian’s review   is pretty scathing about this, but I disagreed and told the curator Carol Jacobi so after she had finished filming a short piece!

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For more information on the show itself, have a look at the brief exhibition guide on the Tate’s site here.

The review in the Art Newspaper is also worth reading.

Here is a slide show of some of what I thought were the more memorable pieces:

 

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