Hockney & Van Gogh, or ‘The Vince and Dave Show’, plus All the Rembrandts
April 30, 2019
To give the exhibition its official title:
“Hockney – Van Gogh, The Joy of Nature”.
It opens with David Hockney on film, talking to camera about his own work, Van Gogh, and the exhibition. “It’s a good title – better than ‘The Vince & Dave Show’,” he says with a mischievous twinkle. Wearing a peppermint-green sweater and yellow spectacle frames, he’s a colourful and impish presence, pausing for thought or a drag on his constantly smouldering cigarette. Van Gogh had a reputation for being miserable, he says.
“He wasn’t miserable when he was painting, was he? His paintings are full of joy”.
Both artists’ works are life-affirming celebrations of seasonal landscapes, from ‘nature’s erection’ (as Hockney describes spring) to felled trees in winter. Hockney’s are his response to Woldgate, East Yorkshire, Van Gogh’s to the sun-saturated fields of wheat and lavender of Provence. Both are hung from walls of bold block colour. Van Gogh’s are small by comparison to the larger scale works by Hockney, but there’s a direct emotional connection between their treatments of landscape.
The first room is dominated by vast, colourful treatments of woodland by Hockney. Van Gogh’s smaller “Undergrowth” hangs from a central pillar; it’s a pattern of straight & writhing trees in a green and blue sea of leaves and ivy, with splashes of sunlit gold highlighting shadowy purple.
Admittedly there’s a sense that, seen in isolation, the exhibition is a Hockney retrospective interspersed with a few works by Van Gogh. One of the last works is a large scale collage, ‘In the Studio’. In it are references to Hockney’s paintings in progress, leaning against or hanging on the walls: the subjects seem random, an Annunciation of the Madonna is juxtaposed with a couple having sex on a bed. The room is ‘furnished’ by photos of furniture (stools, chairs, a carpet) apparently pasted in; the simple chairs could be read as a reference to Van Gogh’s depictions. David Hockney himself stands in the centre of the picture, which he refers to as a ‘Reversed Perspective’ – normally you, the viewer, are fixed outside the picture plane, looking in. Here you can step inside the picture and look around.
van gogh museum
Any sense of imbalance at the number of works by Hockney is redressed as you pass from the exhibition galleries to the permanent Van Gogh Museum. It’s a great foil, Vincent following the David Show, with works by him and his contemporaries, his letters, and information on his life.
Hockney – Van Gogh, The Joy of Nature to May 26th, 2019
All the Rembrandts
To mark the 350th anniversary of the painter’s death, this exhibition displays the Rijksmuseum’s entire collection of Rembrandt’s works, consisting of 300 etchings, 60 drawings and 22 paintings. They are not usually all on public display at the same time.
in the first gallery is a self portrait, an etching not much bigger than a postage stamp.
the image becomes the poster boy for the show, hanging as giant reproductions around Amsterdam and in the museum shop.
‘The Nightwatch’ is the only work not included in the exhibition; it remains in its place in the Hall of Honour. A crowd of schoolchildren was sitting spellbound in front of the canvas when I visited, as their teachers explained what was going on in the painting.
A major restoration and cleaning of ‘The Nightwatch’ is due to start later in 2019. The work will be carried out behind a glass screen in the gallery, in full view of visitors.
You can explore the mysteries of The Nightwatch here:
All the Rembrandts is a fascinating opportunity to view the collection, although I must confess I found it a bit of an outing for completist academics.
Now I know why you should be wary of an invitation to “come up and see my etchings”. You might never get away.
All the Rembrandts to June 10th, 2019 at the Rijksmuseum