Stuart George

“Dear Theo…”: Van Gogh at the Royal Academy

In Art and artists on March 31, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Last week I visited “The Real Van Gogh: The Artists and his Letters” exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.

The exhibition ties in with the recent publication of Vincent Van Gogh – The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, a magnificent six-volume edition of 902 letters to and from Vincent.

The RA has borrowed over 35 letters, 65 paintings and 30 drawings from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for what is the first major Van Gogh exhibition in London for over 40 years. It is unlikely that another Van Gogh exhibition will be organised on such a large scale. These are some of the most valuable works of art on the planet; the insurance costs must be horrendous.

Of course the letters and works of art are fascinating and superb. But the galleries were absolutely heaving with people pushing their noses against a Van Gogh canvas. The RA cannot be blamed for wanting to make as much money as possible out of such a grand exhibition but I wonder if it might be better to offer fewer tickets at a higher price to make the experience more pleasant. I did not have to pay the £12 entrance fee so really I cannot complain!

Among all the famous canvases here, one item stood out. Dated 23 July 1890, Vincent was carrying a letter to be sent to Theo when he shot himself on 27 July.

The letter has dried blood stains on it.

Two days later Vincent died, aged 37.

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