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Van Gogh: Face to Face

October 22, 2000–January 14, 2001

In June of 1890, during his convalescence in Auvers and just one month before his suicide, Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) wrote: “What fascinates me much, much more than does anything else in my metier is the portrait... I should like to do portraits which will appear as revelations to people in 100 years time.“ Taking this famous passage as a point of departure, Van Gogh: Face to Face focuses, for the first time, on Van Gogh’s evolving approach to the portrait throughout a tragically brief life. The permanent collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the three organizing institutions) are graced by a total of five major portraits of the postman Joseph Roulin and his family, who were the artist’s most frequent and loyal models during Van Gogh’s sojourn in Arles in 1888.

These pivotal works will be joined by important portraits from every stage of Van Gogh’s career. Large scale and highly finished drawings, produced in Van Gogh’s native Netherlands between 1882 and 1885, reflect his prodigious success in capturing the essential character of his mostly poor and unnamed subjects. While living in Paris in 1886 and 1887, Van Gogh undertook a series of intense self-portraits as well as more celebratory examinations of friends and colleagues. Also featured in the exhibition will be candid and moving portraits created during his treatment (for epilepsy) at the sanitarium in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, as well as relaxed yet penetrating works painted during his frenetically productive time in Auvers, his final home.

  • Detroit Institute of Art: March 12–June 4, 2000
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: July 2–September 24, 2000
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art: October 22, 2000–January 14, 2001

Main Building


The exhibition was organized by The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Van Gogh: Face to Face is made possible in Philadelphia by Aetna and First Union. Additional support was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. NBC 10 WCAU is the broadcast media sponsor. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News are the print media sponsors.


George Keyes, Elizabeth and Allan Shelden Curator of European Painting, Detroit Institute of Arts; George T.M. Shackelford, Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of European Painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Joseph Rishel, Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art

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