Friday, May 30, 2008

New Guggenheim Installation

The Guggenheim Museum (NYC) today opens a new installation of its famed Thannhauser Collection, which includes works from the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods, as well as the early 20th century. Edouard Manet's lovely "Before the Mirror" (1876) is among the paintings to be displayed, as is Picasso's "Le Moulin de la Galette" (1900), the latter an interesting comparison to Renoir's celebrated earlier painting of the same Parisian dancehall.

Two van Goghs are included in the Thannhauser collection: the first a snowy landscape from Arles, one of Vincent's first paintings there (February 1888) and the second (pictured) a landscape of mountains at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, painted in July 1889 during Vincent's stay at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. "Mountains at Saint-Rémy" was done while Vincent was feeling well and was allowed to leave the walls of the hospital to paint; unfortunately he suffered a serious attack only a few weeks later that lasted until late August. The painting depicts the Alpilles mountains near the asylum, specifically the peaks known as Les Deux Trous and Mont Gaussier. Although Vincent gives the mountains his own distinctive style, they are recognizable in the landscape. Today, though, you won't see any cottages as Vincent did: you'll see the Roman archaeological site of Glanum, which was excavated beginning in the 1920s. Another of Vincent's views of the Alpilles, done in June 1889, can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

When I visited Saint-Rémy last year, I was struck by the colors of Les Alpilles. They are limestone and are mostly bald rock; the day I was there, the stone picked up wonderful lilac and purplish-blue colors from the sun and clouds. I would imagine every day you would see different colors in the rock, depending on the season, the weather, and time of day. Vincent seems to have embraced this visual effect in his paintings of the peaks.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

This sounds like a great exhibit! I really enjoyed your anecdote about the light on the mountains of Saint-Rémy. It's a beautiful sight--whether in real life, or rendered in one of van Gogh's paintings!