My Cousin Vinny

A new show reveals the relationship between van Gogh and his contemporaries in Paris

The most haunting image in this room -- and even, perhaps, in the entire exhibition -- belongs to Anquetin. His "Woman with a Veil" (1891) is absolutely stunning: A woman wearing a boa and a spotted veil looks beguilingly out at the viewer; half of the painting is occupied by the shadowy image of the woman's reflection in a mirror. The woman's face glows with the unearthly light of the night café, and the odd composition owes something to the work of the brilliant draftsman Edgar Degas. There is hardly a more modern work in the exhibition.

The opportunity to see so many works by the little-known Anquetin is one of the nicest achievements of this exhibition. The show also allows for a fuller consideration of Bernard, who is unfortunately often overshadowed by his more glamorous colleague Gauguin. In fact, the exhibition's accomplishments are numerous, allowing for amazing comparisons and revelations that just aren't available in the standard art-history texts.

But in spite of its breadth, in spite of its achievement of contextualizing van Gogh among his avant-garde colleagues, inevitably this show will be remembered as "the van Gogh exhibition." Perhaps that's unavoidable. People want their van Gogh; apparently they always will. But if you go to this show and don't come away with something to say about the other artists, you've missed the point of the exhibition and an opportunity to broaden your understanding of the history of modern art.

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