Van Gogh: Up Close. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Opens at the National Gallery of Canada until September 3, 2012

Ottawa - May 23, 2012

Friday, May 25: This summer’s much anticipated exhibition, Van Gogh: Up Close has arrived at the National Gallery of Canada. Until September 3, visitors will be able to enjoy 47 paintings from public and private collections around the world that explore the Dutch artist’s fascination with and his representation of nature during his French period (1886-1890).

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibition is honoured by the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen of the Netherlands and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.  It is supported by Sun Life Financial, presenting sponsor, and the sponsor Shell Canada.

For the first time, Van Gogh: Up Close brings together a group of close-up views – still lifes and landscapes - in which the artist experimented with bold visual angles, decorative colour, daring cropping and flattened perspective. Van Gogh’s paintings that hone in on a budding iris, a patch of grass or a ripened wheat field are among the most groundbreaking and radical compositions in the artist’s oeuvre. Often thought of as an intense and impassioned painter, the works in this exhibition reveal a deliberate, purposeful approach to his art making that defies common perception; they also highlight Van Gogh’s grasp and knowledge of a wide range of visual sources.

Alongside the works by Van Gogh, the show features three galleries with Japanese prints, 19th century photographs and a selection of works on paper from Old Masters to contemporary artists that contextualize the artist’s experiments on canvas. In all, more than 100 works inspired by nature. 

Van Gogh’s use of the close-up view had a very specific function in the artist’s oeuvre. As with his ambitions in the genre of portraiture, for example, he strove to create a body of work with which to wow his contemporaries and make a lasting contribution to the art of his time.

"Van Gogh is on the shortest list of the world's most famous artists. Both he and his work have been studied by serious scholars from all over the world for more than 120 years. Yet as with any great painter, there is something new to discover about his work, and this is is exactly what the curators behind this exhibition have done,” said NGC director Marc Mayer. “Five years in the making, this exhibition will be remembered for generations.”

"Van Gogh’s work had a profound influence over the art of the 20th century," said Dean Connor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sun Life Financial. "This exhibition gives us the privilege to experience the legacy of a genius. Sun Life commends the National Gallery of Canada for co-organizing Van Gogh: Up Close with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in doing so, enriching us all."

About the curators
Independent scholar and guest curator Dr. Cornelia Homburg and Dr. Anabelle Kienle Poňka, Associate Curator, European and American art (1850–1980) at the National Gallery of Canada, are the curators of Van Gogh: Up Close.

The NGC thanks its exhibition sponsors and partners
The National Gallery of Canada would like to extend a special thank you to the Presenting Sponsor of the exhibition, Sun Life Financial, and sponsor Shell Canada. The NGC also wants to acknowledge The Japan Foundation and Shiseido Canada who supported the presentation of the Japanese prints in this exhibition; the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Embassy of Japan for their precious collaboration; as well as the Canada Travelling Exhibition Indemnification Program through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Public programs
To complement the exhibition, an outstanding range  of educational programs covering its different aspects, as well as related special events, will be presented, including a one-day symposium Saturday, May 26 featuring a group of international Van Gogh scholars, a series of lectures, a play, concerts and films. Visitors will also be able to rent a Bell audioguide ($6), and take part in guided tours for small groups outside of peak periods. As well, after that, visitors can take part in interpretation and hands-on activities in the Exhibition Studio, including writing letters to Van Gogh, or even sharpening their sense of observation by putting together the pieces of a large-scale puzzle or creating digital works using Van Gogh’s colour combinations. Finally, throughout July and August, from 11 am to 4 pm, families can enjoy exhibition inspired interpretation and hands-on activities, and impressionist and post-impressionist works from the permanent collection, at the Artissimo kiosk.  For details, visit

Van Gogh. Up Close catalogue
The Van Gogh. Up Close companion catalogue reveals as never before the genius of Van Gogh’s innovative use of close ups of nature.   Under editor Cornelia Homburg, a Van Gogh scholar, a team of subject experts –  Anabelle Kienle Poňka of the National Gallery of Canada, along with Joseph J. Rishel and Jennifer A. Thompson of the Philadelphia Museum of Art – examines Van Gogh’s radical approach to the close-up by placing it in the context of both contemporary and historical references, including his use of photography – hitherto unrecognized – and his fascination with the Old Masters, as well as with Japanese art and culture.   The volume, published by Yale University Press, in collaboration with the NGC, is available in softcover (in English and French) for $39.95 and in hardcover (English only) for $65 at the NGC Bookstore or online at

Admission (timed tickets) and NGC opening hours
Admission to Van Gogh: Up Close: adults $25, seniors $22, students (card required) $15, youths 12 to 19 years $10, families (2 adults and 3 youths) $50. Free admission for Members of the Gallery and children under 12. Tickets include admission to the permanent collection. Tickets are for a specific date and time, based on availability. No exchange or refunds.  Service charges apply to phone and online orders. All prices include tax.  Order by phone at 613-998-8888 or toll-free at 1-888-541-8888, and at Van Gogh: Up Close is open daily from 10 am until 6 pm (until 8 pm on Thursdays). Tickets are issued up until 90 minutes before closing time. Collection galleries close at 5 pm (8 pm on Thursdays).

Van Gogh’s paintings at the Museum of Civilization’s IMAX Theatre
The Museum of Civilization’s IMAX Theatre invites the public to dive into the breathtaking landscapes and extraordinary colours of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works, seen on a giant-screen, Van Gogh: Brush with Genius. Told through the eyes of Van Gogh and based on more than 900 personal letters, the film transforms the work of the world’s most popular artist into a completely new entertainment experience. A $2 rebate on an adult admission for Van Gogh: Up Close is offered on presentation of Van Gogh: Brush with Genius film ticket to the Box Office at the National Gallery. Some conditions apply. For film schedules, visit or call 819-776-7010.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art, including the extensive collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains the largest touring art exhibition programme in the world. For more information:

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Josée-Britanie Mallet
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National Gallery of Canada
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