Van Gogh and the Seasons (book)

Edition 28 August, by Paola Westbeek

Whether you’re a fan of snow-covered landscapes or prefer balmy summer evenings, each season has its own charm and there are artists who have managed to brilliantly capture this natural splendour. One of them is Vincent van Gogh. Though many associate him with summery images of golden wheatfields and bright yellow sunflowers, the Post-Impressionist Dutch painter was a lover of nature who took great delight in noticing the beauty of every season. In one of his letters, he wrote: “It is something to be deep in the snow in winter, to be deep in the yellow leaves in autumn, to be deep in the ripe wheat in summer, to be deep in the grass in spring. It is something to always be with the mowers and the peasant girls, in summer with the big sky above, in the winter by the black fireplace. And to feel – this has always been so and always will be.” In Van Gogh’s oeuvre, the seasons are well represented in fields, orchards and gardens. People are sometimes pictured as they engage in seasonal activities such as sowing crops and gathering wood.

Van Gogh and the Seasons (part of the eponymous exhibition that was held at the National Gallery of Victoria, in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia in Melbourne from April 28th 2017 to July 12th 2017) not only includes thought-provoking essays on thirty-five paintings and thirteen drawings gathered from twenty internationals lenders including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller- Müller Museum in Otterlo, but it also shines light on the artist’s life and interpretation of nature. Religious implications are considered as well as the influence of French 19th-century symbolism. There is even a chapter devoted to personal letters with a seasonal theme, most of them addressed to his brother Theo.

Written by art historian Sjraar van Heugten, with contributions by Tedd Gott (National Gallery of Victoria curator) and Joan Greer (professor of history of art, design and visual culture at the University of Alberta), the book leads the reader through the four seasons as experienced by Van Gogh in places such as Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise. It is the first time that an exhibition and accompanying catalogue devote attention to the seasons in Van Gogh’s work.