Van Gogh is our culture’s favorite tormented soul, a great artist who must be saved again and again from Kirk Douglas and Lust for Life. By organizing an exhibition of his drawings instead of paintings, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will give us a somewhat less familiar portrait of the popular Dutch master than we are accustomed to seeing. (The museum will attract a crowd but won’t hate itself in the morning.) As original a draftsman as he was a painter, Van Gogh developed a complex repertoire of marks that he arranged into extraordinary, tremulous patterns; some images almost look stitched together. The Met’s show, which includes more than 100 drawings, will represent both his Dutch and French periods, but will focus upon the roughly two years that he spent working in Provence toward the end of his life. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is making many important loans, and the drawings that the artist himself considered his most significant—the so-called Montmajour suite of six works—will be brought together for this exhibition. Since Van Gogh was captivated by the lively relationship between his paintings and drawings, the curators also plan to exhibit several paintings beside related drawings. Traditionally, Van Gogh is regarded as a master of color. This exhibit will show that his “line” is no less powerful.
Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings
Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 18 through December 31.