ArtsFebruary 2, 2012 at 5:39 am

Up Close & Personal

Philly is the only American stop for this ground–breaking Van Gogh exhibition.

“I…am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine–tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself,” wrote Vincent Van Gogh to his sister near the end of his life. These words are embodied by the works exhibited in “Van Gogh: Up Close,” the greatly–anticipated PMA show that opened yesterday.

Focusing on the turbulent final years of the artist’s life — involving his move to Paris in 1886 and his time in an asylum — the exhibit highlights Van Gogh’s obsession with nature and the emotional intensity that manifested itself on canvas. As the ultimate post–impressionist trailblazer, Van Gogh broke all the rules of still–life painting: he layered thick brushstrokes, used unusual perspectives and played with depth of field. Experimentation became increasingly present in the last four years of his life, and this is the first exhibit to ask why.

From fruit and flowers painted from his apartment in Montmartre to the captivating landscapes of Southern France, “Van Gogh: Up Close” offers the viewer an unprecedented opportunity to take in the energized surfaces and dizzying compositions created during the last years of the artist’s tragic life.

Van Gogh: Up Close
Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th St. and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.

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