The Van Gogh Foundation in Arles

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The stunning Van Gogh Foundation in the South of France presents two remarkable exhibitions: Paul Nash, Sunflower Rises and Hot Sun, Late Sun, Untamed Modernism. Only a few days left to visit these exceptional shows in Arles.

Paul Nash’s fascinating body of work is celebrated in an exhibition which demonstrates the English Modernist’s multidisciplinary approach. His diverse interests – including mystic poetry and Christian Science – are evident in the series of melancholic landscapes painted in Surrealist style. Responding to the trauma of World War I, Nash’s concerns with his own mortality are central to the thirty paintings on view on the second floor of the Foundation. Highlights include an impressive series of paintings made by the British artist during the final years of his life: Sunflower & Sun (1942) obviously inspired by the work of Van Gogh. The paintings cover the period from 1918 to 1946.

The exhibition also features archival materials which show Nash’s inspirations. Up until this exhibition, it was little-known that the artist was inspired by the South of France and French painters such as Paul Cézanne and Jean Lurçat. Nash extensively travelled to France in the 1920s and 1930s, including a short stay in Arles.

The main floor of the Foundation explores paintings by Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, juxtaposed with works by Etel Adnan, Giorgio de Chirico, Adolphe Monticelli, Sigmar Polke, Germaine Richier, Joan Mitchell and the musician Sun Ra. At the heart of this exhibition is the concept of the Sun, envisaged as a metaphor for the artist’s relationships with the Mediterranean region as well as art history’s Modernism and Postmodernism.

Curated by Bice Curiger, the starting point for this show is the sun of Provence which both impressed and inspired Van Gogh when he moved to Arles in February 1888. The end of the day sun, resonated with Picasso’s final years. Filled with a sense of urgency, Picasso turns to formal abbreviation, as witnessed by The Old Man, executed in 1970 at Mougins. All seven works on view were created between 1970 and 1973, when Picasso was living at Notre-Dame-de-Vie in Mougins. The light of Postmodernism appears in the works of a different generation of artists, one to which Sigmar Polke belongs.


Installation view Copyright Van Gogh Foundation.
Paul Nash, Eclipse of the Sunflower, 1945. Oil on canvas, 71.1 × 91.4 cm. British Council Collection.