From October 12, 2013 until January 26, 2014 The Phillips Collection in Washington DC presents Van Gogh: Repetitions. The exhibition takes a fresh look at the artistic process of Vincent van Gogh. (1853–1890). While recognized for the intensity and speed with which he painted, the artist could also work with careful deliberation, creating numerous versions of some of his most famous subjects. The first exhibition in Phillips Collection history devoted to the artist, Van Gogh Repetitions goes beneath the surface of some of his best-known paintings to examine how and why he repeated certain compositions during his 10-year career, inviting viewers to look more closely than ever before at van Gogh’s celebrated works.
Featuring 35 paintings and works on paper and examples of 13 repetitions, the exhibition is the first to focus on van Gogh’s “repetitions”—a term the artist used to describe his practice of creating more than one version of a particular subject. He often began by sketching a person or landscape rapidly from life. Back in the studio, he would repeat the subject, reworking and refining his idea on a fresh canvas, in some cases many times, to extract the essence of a motif.
Van Gogh Repetitions is inspired by The Road Menders (1889) in The Phillips Collection and a painting of the same subject, The Large Plane Trees (1889), in The Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibition reunites the two masterpieces—never before seen together in Washington—and invites deep, focused study of the similarities and differences between them, revealing some surprising facts about van Gogh’s process and motivation. Changes among repetitions are also explored in van Gogh’s series of portraits of his friend Joseph Roulin and Roulin’s family. The exhibition also highlights the artist’s practice of repeating work by other artists, including Paul Gaugin. Created in significant locales in the Netherlands and in France, including Paris, Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers, the works in the exhibition reveal the vitality and persistence of this method across van Gogh’s career.
The exhibition brings together portraits and landscapes from some of the world’s most renowned collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, including The Bedroom at Arles (1889), are also showcased alongside paintings from the Phillips’s permanent collection by artists van Gogh admired, including Gaugin, Honoré Daumier, and Rembrandt van Rijn, to create a richer, more meaningful picture of his personal life and artistic production.