CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Intervention Van Gogh & Roulin

Exhibition: 16 April - 4 September 2011

From the museum press release

‘Unutterably luminous and consoling’, is how Van Gogh described those portraits he thought the best. That is how he had experienced the old masters and that is what he aspired to himself. In the exhibition Van Gogh & Roulin, one of the masterpieces from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Van Gogh’s Portrait of Armand Roulin, will be temporarily reunited with the portrait of Armand’s father Joseph Roulin, the postmaster whom Van Gogh befriended.

Peter Hecht, guest curator and professor of art history in Utrecht, tells the story of this friendship and of the portraits of father and son through the portraits and several of Van Gogh’s letters.


The exhibition deals with three themes, each on a separate wall. The first is Van Gogh and portraiture, which is illuminated by the artist’s cherished recollection of Carel Fabritius’ Self-Portrait, which he saw at Museum Boymans. This, according to Van Gogh, is one of those rare paintings, ‘in which the portrait of a human being is transformed into something luminous and consoling.’

This is followed by two portraits of the Roulin family, from which the portrait of the eldest son Armand from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is confronted with that of his father, the postmaster. This painting has been loaned specially for the exhibition by the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. The gallery texts tell the story of the friendship between Van Gogh
and the Roulins and what these paintings have to say to us.

On two other walls the relationship between Joseph Roulin and Van Gogh is examined in greater detail through several original letters from Van Gogh, his brother Theo and the postmaster. These are joined by Van Gogh’s portrait of Camille Roulin, Armand’s younger brother, who helped his father to write his letters. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen was the first Dutch museum to acquire a painting by Van Gogh.

Study collection

In the exhibition Van Gogh & Roulin there is a special study gallery, in which a part of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s permanent collection is hung as it would have been in the late nineteenth century. This study collection affords an opportunity to show representative works that are normally kept in storage and evokes the atmosphere of a nineteenth-century museum.

The Collection Enriched

The exhibition Van Gogh & Roulin is part of The Collection Enriched, the new display of the museum’s permanent collection. Every few years Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen changes its displays of the permanent collection. From 16 April the collection will be enriched with more than twenty loans from other museums in the Netherlands and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. More than 350 works from the museum’s collection and masterpieces on loan will
ensure a surprising display of the best of painting from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century.

The presentation has been conceived and curated by Peter Hecht, professor of art history at Utrecht University under the auspices of the Rembrandt Association Fellowship. The Collection Enriched is designed by stylist Maarten Spruyt. The artist P. Struycken has selected the palette
of colours. The Collection Enriched has been made possible in part by: our main patron, the Rembrandt Association. With thanks to Sikkens, BankGiro Loterij and Rabobank Rotterdam. Additional funding was supplied by the bequest of Mrs van Riemsdijk-Borsje.