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August 9th, 2000
Van Gogh's Portraits: Their Significance and Exhibition History

In September 1888, Vincent van Gogh wrote, "I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize...Ah! portraiture, portraiture with the thoughts, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come." Portraits were van Gogh's most revered subject. It seems surprising, then, that Van Gogh: Face to Face is the first comprehensive survey of the artist's work in portraiture.

Although scholars, including Evert van Uitert and Carol Zemel, have thoughtfully discussed van Gogh as a portraitist, museum exhibitions have not addressed this topic in detail. In 1960, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., in London, presented Van Gogh Self Portraits, a focused exhibition of 18 paintings. In 1994, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and its affiliate, the H. W. Mesdag Museum in the Hague, mounted an exhibition of portraits by van Gogh and other artists from the two institutions, presented at the Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum of Art in Japan. The following year, the Kunsthalle Hamburg presented self-portraits painted by van Gogh during his two-year residence in Paris.

In the past two decades, exhibitions of van Gogh's work-not exclusive to portraiture-were mounted by museums throughout Europe and the United States. In the 1980s, for example, the exhibitions Van Gogh in Arles and Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy and Auvers attracted great critical and popular attention while on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most recently, Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, was presented by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in late 1998 and early 1999.

Van Gogh: Face to Face will feature more than 70 paintings and drawings from an international array of public and private collections. It will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 22, 2000, to January 14, 2001.

Van Gogh: Face to Face is made possible in Philadelphia by Aetna and First Union. Additional support was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Amtrak, and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. NBC 10 WCAU is the broadcast media sponsor. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News are the print media sponsors. The exhibition was organized by The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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