23rd January 2010 — 18th April 2010
Don't make the mistake of trying to visit this popular exhibition at lunch time on a Saturday. Queues were snaking out of the building and out into the unseasonable sunshine. No timed slots meant the rooms inside were mobbed six deep at every picture.
Was it worth the discomfort? Yes it was!
Having seen much of Van Gogh's Art in many European Galleries, this exhibition had some old friends and some new, but the aspect which made it worth the wait was the array of illustrated letters in both Dutch and French to his brother Theo. Elaborate pen and ink drawings within the letters describing exactly what he was working on from day to day, were the highlight.
The year 1888 has a room to itself, rightly so, as it is the year he lived in Arles at the yellow house preparing for the arrival of his friend and fellow painter, Paul Gauguin.
The rapid brushstrokes sometimes leaving bare canvas show the speed with which Van Gogh furiously covered his canvas. Don't stand back with an audio guide – get up close to see the detail of the brushstrokes – to see the manic inspiration which propelled him to cover canvas with such speed and desperation.
My favourite pictures were the 'Vase of Cornflowers, Daisies, Poppies and Carnations' – yes I like blue. I feel the blue flowers on a blue background work even better than the yellow sunflowers on a yellow background. My other favourite is 'The Hospital at San Remy', predominantly in blues and greens and adorning the exhibition catalogue. Save up your pocket money for this one as it will continue to delight long after the exhibition has moved on. 'The Yellow House' by Martin Gayford, also available at the Royal Academy is another good read for all Vincent fans.
Evidence of his difficult personal relationships would suggest he was on the Autistic spectrum. In this exhibition we are privileged to gain an insight into the life of a tragic and troubled genius.
Royal Academy of Arts
London W1J 0BD
Late night Friday until 10pm