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June 30th, 1999
Three Museums Join to Present Groundbreaking Survey of Van Gogh's Portraits

In June of 1890, during his convalescence in Auvers and just one month before his suicide, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) wrote: "What fascinates me much, much more than does anything else in my metier is the portrait, the modern portrait…I should like to do portraits which will appear as revelations to people in 100 years time."

Taking this famous passage as a point of departure, The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Van Gogh: Face to Face, a major exhibition that will tour the three organizing institutions in the year 2000.

Featuring some 50 paintings and drawings from an international array of public and private collections, Van Gogh: Face to Face will focus, for the first time, on Van Gogh's evolving approach to the portrait throughout his tragically brief life.

Van Gogh: Face to Face will be on view at The Detroit Institute of Arts from March 12 to June 4, 2000; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from July 2 to September 24, 2000; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 22, 2000, to January 14, 2001.

"Van Gogh's portraits resonate with personal compassion and the conviction that, when thoughtfully observed, nature reveals profound truths," explains Maurice D. Parrish, Interim Director of The Detroit Institute of Arts. "These qualities, along with his great talents, inspired this ambitious undertaking."

"This exhibition opens a door on Van Gogh and his world that is unprecedented," adds Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "We see the painter reflected in the faces of his sitters--this is the genius of the artist's most powerful portraits."

Anne d'Harnoncourt, The George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, notes that "Van Gogh's passion for portraiture continues to distinguish him from many of his Post-Impressionist contemporaries. His portraits reflect a deep admiration for his fellow Dutchmen, Rembrandt and Hals, as well as a profound interest in individual personality and experience."

The permanent collections of The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are graced by a total of five major portraits of the Roulin family. Joseph Roulin, a postman, showed great and consistent kindness to Van Gogh during his sojourn in Arles in 1888. Roulin, together with his wife Augustine and their three children, were the artist's most frequent and loyal models during this period. These pivotal works, representing Van Gogh at his most innovative, will be joined by important portraits from every stage of the artist's career.

The three curators, all specialists in 19th-century European and Dutch painting, who are co-organizing Van Gogh: Face to Face are George Keyes, The Elizabeth and Allan Shelden Curator of European Painting, The Detroit Institute of Arts; George T. M. Shackelford, The Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of European Painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Joseph Rishel, The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Information regarding exhibition hours, tickets, group tours, and other related activities at the participating museums will be announced in August, 1999.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated, 272-page survey of Van Gogh's portraiture published by Thames and Hudson, Inc. Featured will be essays by the exhibition curators and other leading scholars, as well as a bibliography and exhibition checklist.

Van Gogh: Face to Face is organized by The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Detroit showing of the exhibition is made possible by a generous contribution from the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest museums in the United States, with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries presenting painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Its facilities include its landmark Main Building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Perelman Building, located nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Rodin Museum on the 2200 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and two 18th-century houses in Fairmount Park, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove. The Museum offers a wide variety of activities for public audiences, including special exhibitions, programs for children and families, lectures, concerts and films.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at pressroom@philamuseum.org. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

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