CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Van Gogh: face to face

Exhibition: 12 March - 4 June 2000

From the website of, 24 February 2009

Van Gogh: Face to Face is the first comprehensive museum exhibition devoted exclusively to Vincent van Gogh’s achievements in portraiture. It explores the full range of his portrait activity—from his earliest drawings and character studies to his numerous self-portraits and likenesses of friends—and spans the entire course of his brief but intense career.

The exhibition, organized chronologically, is divided equally between drawings and paintings. The majority of the drawings date from early in van Gogh’s career, when he was still working in his native Netherlands before going to France. These drawings, of the urban poor and peasants, were more studies of character types than likenesses of specific people. The focus shifts to identifiable portrait subjects after the artist moves to France, working first in Paris, then in Arles and Saint-Rémy in southern France, and, finally, in Auvers. Many of van Gogh’s most renowned oil portraits and self-portraits date from his time in France.

Van Gogh was a prolific letter writer and his correspondence reveals his commitment to portraiture and the high esteem in which he held the genre from the beginning of his career to the end. What impassions me most—much, much more than all the rest of my métier—is the portrait, the modern portrait, he wrote in 1890. Most of his letters to friends and family, especially those to his brother Theo, survive and shed light on van Gogh’s wide-ranging concerns relating to the world of art at large as well as his own more immediate concerns as an artist.


Van Gogh face to face: the portraits
Roland Dorn and Katherine Sachs
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2000 in Detroir (Detroit Institute of Arts) and Boston (Museum of Fine Arts) and in 2000-01 in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
272 pp.
London (Thames and Hudson) 2000
ISBN 0-500-09290-7 (hardbound)

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