About the Exhibition

Discover the true nature of Van Gogh this summer at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the only Canadian venue for this unique exhibition.

Van Gogh: Up Close is the first major exhibition in Canada in over 25 years of works by this famous Dutch artist. It brings together more than 40 of Van Gogh’s paintings from private and public collections around the world, as well as a selection of Japanese woodblock prints, nineteenth-century photographs, and works on paper from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

This exhibition explores Van Gogh’s love for nature and his gift for representing the world around him, from landscapes down to the smallest blade of grass.

For example, the show includes Iris (1889), from the National Gallery of Canada's collection, as well as paintings that depict another corner of the garden where Van Gogh painted Iris, but from a wider angle. Van Gogh: Up Close will demonstrate how these paintings became the most radical and innovative in the artist's body of work.

Where It Started

In early 1886 Van Gogh arrived in Paris from the Netherlands and came face to face with a revolutionary new way of painting. For the first time he was exposed to the art of the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists, which compelled him to revise his painting in both content and style. He quickly abandoned the sombre hues of his earlier Dutch works in favour of a brighter palette and modernized brushstroke, beginning with a series of flower still lifes painted in a typical 19th century Western style. But Van Gogh swiftly departed from this tradition and focused increasingly on the subject itself, eliminating the surrounding space.

At the same time, Van Gogh developed a keen interest in Japanese woodblock prints, which he admired for their aesthetic qualities. Like the Impressionist painters who had discovered these prints earlier, Van Gogh became fascinated with Japanese art. This led him to experiment with unusual visual angles, decorative use of colour, cropping and flattening of his compositions.

Van Gogh, The Man

Often remembered for his battles with mental illness and suicide in July 1890, Van Gogh was first and foremost an ambitious, well-read and sophisticated thinker whose work was informed and deliberate.

Born in 1853, he was fluent in English, French and Dutch, and he had a great love for the written word. Throughout his life he read a vast amount of literature that stretched from the Bible to French Naturalist writings. Vincent Van Gogh also had a strong understanding of art history that extended from Old Master paintings right up to the emergence of photography.

Exhibition Patronage

Van Gogh: Up Close is organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Presenting Sponsor: Sun Life Financial. Sponsor: Shell. Supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Program.

The exhibition is honoured by the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

Exhibition Curators

Cornelia Homburg, Van Gogh expert and guest curator, National Gallery of Canada. Anabelle Kienle Poňka, Associate Curator of European art at the National Gallery of Canada and co-curator of the exhibition Van Gogh: Up Close


Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Philadelphia Museum of Art