A live stream reunited five versions of Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece, ‘Sunflowers’, on Monday. The five versions of the work were reunited for the first time in a century in the “virtual exhibition.”
Van Gogh painted the ‘Sunflowers’ series in the South of France in 1888 and 1889. Five versions of the work reside in five different museums on three continents.
Reunited for the first time in a century
A Facebook Live Event made possible the impossible. On Monday a “virtual exhibition” of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ broke time and space.
The hour and a half broadcast began in London’s National Gallery. Then continued at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Tokyo’s Seiji Togo Memorial Museum of Art.
In 15 minutes segments, a curator of each museum described a different aspect of the paintings.
Ms. Jennifer Thompson, the curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, focused on Van Gogh’s repetition of the subject. Her colleague from the Neue Pinakothek in Munich talked about his use of color.
They also discussed what makes their version unique. Incidentally, the pieces in Philadelphia and Munich share a similar trait. They both have turquoise backgrounds. Which makes them different from later versions in the other three museums, which have yellow backgrounds.
Since the paintings are so treasured and such big draws it’s been, and still is, really difficult to bring them together. Making this virtual exhibition a huge deal.
“Because the five paintings are spread across different continents, it has never been possible to view them together,” said the Amsterdam museum’s director Axel Rueger.
Fortunately, the museums are able to use technology in a way that allows them bringing art to people.
“We’re at a moment in time where new kinds of experience are becoming possible for art galleries and museums all around the world,” said Chris Michaels, the National Gallery digital curator.
Michaels is hopeful his team will bring more of the National Gallery’s famous pieces to online audiences. It’s an added attraction and a way to connect with other galleries.
“But it’s not a replacement,” he said.
“It’s another type of thing that art museums can do and an amazing one for us to explore in the future, in partnership with amazing museums around the world.”
More virtual experiences
The museums also launched a virtual reality experience last week. It shows viewers all five ‘Sunflowers’ in one room, something never seen to the date.
The new experience launched August 10th on the Facebook pages of three of the participating museums: The National Gallery in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Neue Pinakothek in Munich, and Tokyo’s Seiji Togo Memorial Museum of Art.
The virtual tour of the ‘Sunflowers’ series, featured Willem van Gogh, the great grandson of Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s beloved brother.
Willen takes the viewer from work to work, describing their history and significance in detail.
Sunflowers had a special significance for Van Gogh. He even once wrote in a letter to a friend that they conveyed “gratitude”.
Willem van Gogh also describes his personal memories of the ‘Sunflowers’ in this digital exhibition.
“Each generation forms a new, highly personal bond with these works,” Willem van Gogh said.
The Sunflowers paintings, which rank among the Dutch master’s most famous works, were painted between 1888-89 while Van Gogh was living in Arles in the south of France.
Van Gogh got very excited when he got word that another artist, Paul Gauguin, would be staying with him in Arles, France. He imagined a great artistic partnership between them. He wanted his new roommate to feel comfortable, so he made a set of paintings of sunflowers for Gauguin’s room.
The earlier series, executed in Paris in 1887, depicts the flowers lying on the ground. The second set, executed a year later in Arles, shows bouquets of sunflowers in a vase.
In the artist’s mind, both sets were linked by the name of his friend Paul Gauguin, who acquired two of the Paris versions.
“The way each of the flowers is rendered is different. They each have a personality to them,” said Jennifer Thompson, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“That sense of individuality is something that makes this series so compelling. He’s not copying himself; each time he’s going back and taking a new approach.”
He made seven paintings, six of them survive, five of those in public institutions, where they hold pride of place.
It’s unlikely the paintings will ever share the same room, again. The institutions rarely, if ever, loan them out. The PMA’s painting is contractually obligated to stay put: it was donated with the condition that it never leaves.
Source: Boston Herald