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Be schooled on Munch & Van Gogh

Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh, self portraits, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Left: Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Palette, 1926. Private collection Right: Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait as a Painter, 1887-1888. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (Vincent van Gogh Foundation). 

Daniel Ferguson

Almost sibling in influence yet never destined to meet, Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch now feature side by side in an exciting comparison of their work, artistic philosophies and defining influences.

That Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch never met has to be one of the most annoyingly unfinished moments in art history.

Both artists admired and shared the direct influence of artists and styles like Gauguin’s exotic scenes of daily life and the pointillism of Pissaro, both lived in Paris’s Montmartre during the frenzied belle époque of the late 19th century, though never at the same time, and both sought to use their art to describe the world through emotion and ideas.

Now visitors to Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum can experience a vast array of works from these two fathers of expressionism side by side. The welcoming, clear spaces of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam provide the perfect backdrop to while away a cold winter weekend, surrounded by explosions of colour, figure and form.

Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait as a Painter hangs beside Munch’s Self-Portrait with Palette. These two works offer visitors a clear example of the commonalities and contrasts between the two artists: Van Gogh’s approach is meticulous, almost studious, while Munch paints with flare and whimsy.

Scenes of nature, death, everyday life and extraordinary faces abound. Visitors will appreciate the sheer volume of works on show and the hard work of curators in providing so much direct comparison between the two artists.

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Mr and Mrs Robert Kahn-Sriber, in memory of Mr and Mrs Fernand Moch, 1975.


Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1922, Munch Museum, Oslo
Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1922. Munch Museum,Oslo.

It’s hard to stand in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888 and Munch’s 1926 work Starry Night and not feel that some ineffable cosmic force set these two men to travel on such similar journeys yet forever in parallel.

Whether you’re an Expressionism fanboy or one of the uninitiated, you’ll find yourself soundly educated.

Exhibition Munch : Van Gogh runs at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum until January 17 2016.

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