Author: Adam Sherwin
A major Vincent van Gogh exhibition, which celebrates the Dutch master as an “economic migrant” inspired by his years living and working in London, will open at Tate Britain during the week of Brexit.
The much-loved Sunflowers will be among 45 works assembled for the Van Gogh and Britain show, the first to explore the artist’s crucial years he spent in London between 1873 and 1876.
Lead curator Carol Jacobi said the artist was an “economic migrant”, who came to London as a trainee art dealer and became enthused by the modern, bustling city he found.
Inspired by the paintings of John Constable and writers such as Shakespeare and Dickens the Brixton-dwelling van Gogh gave up his commercial career to pursue life as an artist.
The exhibition opens on March 27, two days before Britain formally leaves the EU.
Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson said that Van Gogh’s period as a Dutch migrant living in Britain has “more resonance” today. He said: “He is perennially important, as is the story of migration on British art … (the exhibition) is both timeless and timely.”
During his time in London, a top-hatted van Gogh roamed from pubs to Parliament, and sketched the River Thames at dusk.
‘I love London’
He wrote to his brother Theo: “I love London.” But the painter also came face-to-face with poverty and threw himself into an “unsuccessful passion” with the daughter of his landlady.
Almost all of van Gogh’s drawings from his time spent in England have been lost.
But he collected thousands of engravings from English magazines and the exhibition will show the direct influence of the sights and sounds the artist absorbed on his later famous works.
Sunflowers among ‘icon’ paintings
The Tate Britain exhibition will include “absolute icons” such as Starry Night Over The Rhone (1888) and Shoes (1886) as well as Sunflowers (1888).
The last Van Gogh show at the Tate, in 1947, attracted record crowds and was visited by the Queen. The Tate begged the Arts Council for funds to repair its floors damaged by the footfall.
Farquharson said he hoped the Tate’s floors were “more robust” today.
In the final months before he died penniless in 1890 after shooting himself, van Gogh returned to his London prints to paint the work Prisoners Exercising (1890), his only surviving image of London.