DETROIT — Detroit Institute of Arts visitors can now get a glimpse into the private world of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
One of the artist’s most famous works, the oil “Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles” is now on display at the museum. The painting is on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris through May 28. It’s being shown in the Dutch galleries, alongside three other van Gogh paintings in the DIA’s collection: his “Self-Portrait,” painted shortly before van Gogh went to Arles; “The Postman Roulin,” painted during van Gogh’s time in Arles and using his actual postal carrier as a model; and “The Diggers,” the artist’s interpretation of Jean-François Millet’s painting of the same name.
“Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles” is one of three nearly identical paintings the artist created during his stay in the countryside. The first, painted in October 1888, was damaged during a flood; it is at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The following year, van Gogh created two more paintings of the room, one of which is at the Art Institute of Chicago and the second of which, a smaller image, is part of the Musée d’Orsay’s collection.
“It is part of the DIA’s effort of bringing in important masterpieces from around the world,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, head of the DIA’s European Art Department and curator of European paintings at the museum.
Van Gogh created this work while he was a “peasant painter.” It was done during “a very happy period” in the often-troubled artist’s life, Salort-Pons said.
“This is one of the few interiors van Gogh did,” he said. “When van Gogh paints an interior, he changes the perspective and creates an image that is immediately very strong.”
With its soft colors and lack of depth and shadows, the painting reflects a feeling of tranquility and shows the influence of Japanese prints on the artist, Salort-Pons said.
“He’s exploring what is the essence of a bedroom,” the curator explained. “He’s trying to convey a feeling of restfulness through the painting. … He wants to remove all of the drama from the painting to create a very relaxing image. It’s a direct, very honest painting, but it’s complex, intellectually.”
Although Salort-Pons wasn’t sure if this painting had traveled to the United States before, he said this marks the first time it’s been on display at the DIA. He said the loan was made possible because of the DIA’s well-respected European art collection and its relationship with other museums around the world; in exchange for the Van Gogh, the DIA is loaning the Musée d’Orsay “The Nightmare” by Swiss-born Henry Fuseli.
Seen alongside other works by van Gogh, visitors can see how his technique evolved, from the pointillism influence of his “Self-Portrait” to the use of thick paint and thick brushes in “The Diggers,” Salort-Pons said.
Last summer, the DIA displayed Vermeer’s painting, “Woman Holding a Balance,” which was on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Robert Schindler, the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the DIA, said the Vermeer attracted a lot of interest from visitors. The van Gogh painting is expected to draw crowds, as well.
“This is such an important piece and so highly sought after, it’s rarely (on display at the Musée d’Orsay because it’s usually on loan elsewhere),” Schindler said.
Having the painting in Detroit is an opportunity to learn and appreciate the work and other paintings at the museum.
“I really want people to come here open-mindedly and spend some time with the painting,” Schindler said. “For many people — me included — these paintings become good friends in time.”
Talmer Bank and Trust sponsors the exhibit. The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward in Detroit’s Cultural Center. The museum is now open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Admission is free to residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. For more information, visit www.dia.org or call (313) 833-7900.
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