Van Gogh at The Burrell, Glasgow. LISTINGS: GLASGOW 54 EDINBURGH 57 MUSEUMS 60

Dutch touch

Easily the most famous, Van Gogh was far from being the only great Dutch artist of the late 19th century, as Sue Wilson finds out at Glasgow’s Burrell Collection.

The fact that Van Gogh was Dutch is not usually one of the first things people remember about

him, mainly because of his close links with French '

artists and art currents. Added to this is the popular image of him as tortun l solitary genius; if he is seen as driven purely by some unique creative angst. his native context seems less important. The forthcoming exhibition takes the unusual step of placing his work alongside that of his Dutch contemporaries. with the hope of suggesting new perspectives. At the same time. it offers the chance to see the work of around 40 lesser-known Dutch painters from the period.

As far as reputations in modern art are concerned. it could almost be said that Dutch painting had peaked too soon, with the achievements of Rembrandt and his

contemporaries tending to overshadow subsequent developments. However, Holland was far from impervious to the ferment of innovation brewing in Europe as the 20th century approached. and the exhibition displays a fascinating diversity of approaches and techniques.

Structured as a continuous narrative. it begins with the work of the generation previous to Van Gogh‘s. This includes the influential group of landscape and genre painters known as the Hague School. whose principal members Bosboom. Israels. the Maris brothers and Mauve all feature in the exhibition. Even this grouping. however. straddles a wide spectrum ofstyles Bosboom‘s church interiors. with their glowing tones descended directly from Rembrandt. the stark realism and expressive colour in lsraels' paintings of fishermen. Jacob Maris‘ Impressionist-influenced waterside scenes and the visionary style of his younger Matthijs. a forerunner ofSymbolism and Art Nouveau.

Van Gogh‘s early work was influenced by these older artists; he was taught by Mauve. a distant relative. and shared the group‘s admiration of the Barbizon School. particularly Millet. with his direct. unprettified depictions ofpeasant life. The dark, Northern tones ofthese paintings contrast starkly with the brilliant palette he discovered in France, but the interest in simple, rustic subjects remained with him.

Fifteen canvases by Van Gogh form the centrepiece of the second. and largest. section of

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i Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Grove, 1889

the exhibition, including Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat. Olive-Grove. and Still-Life With lrises. The works are drawn from all stages of his career but inevitably focus on his last few years of extraordinary creativity. The paintings of this period reveal the variety of techniques with which he experimented, and his development from Impressionism towards a more Expressionist style, with the colours and brushwork conveying ideas and emotions, rather than giving an accurate rendering of the subject.

Other younger Dutch painters included in this section were also influenced by developments abroad, choosing emphatically modern subjects and adopting a freer. more expressive style of painting. Some. like Van Gogh, chose to live outside Holland. including Meijer de Haan and Jan Verkade. who joined the circle ofGaugin and Les Nabis (‘the Prophets‘) in France. This group, active 1889—1899. were interested in the use of | pure. flat colours. rejecting lmpressionism’s implicit naturalism.

Another artist who travelled in search of inspiration was Jan Toorop, who moved to Brussels in 1882 and later exhibited with the progressive group Les Vingt. The wide variety of styles and techniques he adopted. sometimes within a single work. reveal his susceptibility to outside influences. He is best remembered,

I however. as the leading Dutch Symbolist, his

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intense. eerie, dream-like scenes reminiscent of Beardsley or Munch.

The move towards Symbolism is examined more closely by the final part of the exhibition. Apart from Toorop, the major figure here was Johan Thorn Prikker, whose work pushed the characteristic devices of Symbolist art to extremes. The most famous example is the near-abstract The Bride, with its central figure reduced to the shape of the veil.

One possible problem with the exhibition is that the divisions between European artists in this period were more aesthetic or philosophical than national, so that focusing on a single country runs the risk ofoverly isolating individual paintings. On the other hand, as already mentioned. the achievements of the 17th century have led to more modern Dutch art being somewhat neglected; while many Dutch artists were outside the modernist mainstream, their works display interesting regional variations of the dominant international movements. Most importantly, though, the exhibition offers the

chance to see Van Gogh’s work. so often known only from cheap prints, in its original glory of detail and colour. (Sue Wilson)

The Age of Van Gogh: Dutch Painting 1880—1895 can be seen at the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, 10 Nov—10 Feb 199].

The List 9— 22 November 1990 53