TIO DENVER: "BECOMING VAN GOGH"

"The Blute-fin Mill," courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

“The Blute-fin Mill,” courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

One word on “Becoming Van Gogh” at the Denver Art Museum: GO!

To most of the world, Vincent van Gogh is a storied super-legend. We think of sunflowers and haystacks, swirling stars, straw hats and severed ears. That is how genius lives in our culture, on coffee cups, mouse pads and umbrellas. (Well maybe not the severed ears. Except on Halloween.) Most of us have seen a fair amount of Van Gogh’s work, the major pieces at the MOMA, the Louvre, D’Orsay, Tate, Art Institute of Chicago or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. What you haven’t seen is the genius as presented at the DAM. As the Denver Art Museum says it:

“Organized by the DAM and curated by Timothy J. Standring, Gates Foundation Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the DAM and Louis van Tilborgh, Senior Researcher of Paintings at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, ‘Becoming Van Gogh’ brings together loans from more than 60 public and private collections from across Europe and North America to tell the story of a number of key formative periods throughout the artist’s career.”

I would describe the experience simply as a wondrous journey through a genius mind.

"Vase with Gladioli," coutesy of the Denver Art Museum

“Vase with Gladioli,” coutesy of the Denver Art Museum

As the viewer follows the development of an artist, she also shares the journey of a passionate craftsman. There are the familiar paintings, landing in the collective haystack of what we understand to be “Van Gogh,” and then there are those which transport us to the moment of their creation: some studious, some spontaneous, others give us Van Gogh’s point of view as he shifts his sense of place. Sketches of female nudes and humble oils of vases full of flowers bring the cloudy Dutchman into the mastery of living color. Parisian open space from the hill of Montmartre and Le Moulin de la Galette, Potato Eaters and wheat fields, still lifes and self portraits fill frame after frame as we progress toward the Van Gogh of legend. It is midway through the tour when “Basket with Six Oranges” stops me still, radiating from the canvas and bouncing off the wall. Might be the most amazing thing I’ve seen since… well, just since.

Van Gogh is a harsh beauty, rough and delicate at the same time, like life. The complexity of his evolution is captivating: multiple moments in this show will reduce you to tears if you let it happen, for it’s not a story of being. The show is the story of becoming.

I don’t know how they keep doing it, but this is another Denver Art Museum exclusive and your only chance to see this show.

"Baskets with Six Oranges," courtesy, Denver Art Museum

“Baskets with Six Oranges,” courtesy, Denver Art Museum

Timed tickets are essential. Advance purchase is a must.

I plan to revisit “Becoming Van Gogh” even with the throngs. It’s worth it. My fantasy version of the encore is a Night-at-the-Museum sleepover, where I could wander through the wonder in my PJs or lie in front of a painting and ponder. Something tells me that’s not gonna happen.

Becoming Van Gogh runs now through January 20, 2013 at the Denver Art Museum.

 

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Tracy Shaffer

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