5 things to know about the Van Gogh and Britain exhibition

5 things to know about the Van Gogh and Britain exhibition

Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh (1889), National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney

The Tate Britain introduces The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain, a major exhibition on Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) that presents the largest group of his paintings in the UK for nearly a decade. Exploring Van Gogh’s relationship with Britain (where he lived for several years), it delves into the impact British art, literature and culture had on his work and how he in turn inspired other British painters – from the likes of Vanessa Bell to Francis Bacon.


Here are five highlights of the exhibition, as well as interesting facts about the artist, that make it a must-visit this year.

1. This is a fresh introduction to one of the most celebrated artists


Van Gogh’s paintings are among the most reproduced and recognisable in the history of art. Through this exhibition we are invited to share his most intimate reflections on life and art, through his personal letters and much more. This is a fresh take on the work of a modern master, which re-examines the formation of the Van Gogh legend and his legacy on British art.

Sorrowing old man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’) (1890) Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo 

Sunflowers (1888), Vincent van Gogh. The National Gallery, London.

2. It includes his most famous pieces


Bringing together works by the artist from both public and private collections around the world, the exhibition includes Self Portrait (1889) from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, L’Arlésienne (1890) from Museu de Arte São Paulo, Starry Night (1888) from Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Shoes (1886) from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the rarely loaned Sunflowers (1888) from the National Gallery in London.


The world-renowned Sunflowers (1888) is also shown alongside the British artwork that it inspired, from paintings by artists Frank Brangwyn and Matthew Smith, as well as Winifred Nicholson and David Bomberg.

3. He almost never became an artist at all


Van Gogh explored careers in the art trade and worked as a teacher and pastor in his younger years before becoming an artist at the age of 27. He had little formal art training and was mostly self-taught from studying prints, which helped him find novel compositions and develop an original painting style.

Path in the Garden in the Asylum (1889), Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo 

Self-portrait, Vincent van Gogh (1887), Paris, Musée d’Orsay

4. He produced new work nearly every 36 hours


In his short 10 year career Van Gogh produced over 800 paintings and was extremely prolific – this means he was creating new artworks almost every 36 hours on average.


He struggled with serious mental health issues throughout his life and even after admitting himself into Saint-Paul Asylum, he continued to work. He created Saint-Rémy: a collection of paintings whilst he was a patient, as well as the world-famous Starry Night (1888).

5. London was one of Van Gogh’s favourite cities


Van Gogh came to Britain at the age of 20 and spent several crucial years in the city, walking its streets, crossing its bridges and drawing inspiration from his surroundings.  The exhibition reveals that his time in Britain was life-changing, influencing the art he would begin making for years to come. English literature was also a pleasure to him all his life and he admired Victorian novels, as well as being devoted to Charles Dickens.

The Prison Courtyard (1980), Vincent van Gogh. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

The EY Exhibition Van Gogh and Britain is on now until August 2019. Book tickets here.


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