Sun, Oct 2, 2022 — Sun, Jan 22, 2023

In 2022, the Detroit Institute of Arts will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its purchase of Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait, 1887—the first painting by this iconic artist to be bought by an American museum. In honor of the centenary of this landmark acquisition and as an early advocate for the artist in America, the Detroit Institute of Arts will present the first exhibition dedicated to the introduction and early reception of Van Gogh’s work in the United States. The exhibition will bring together approximately sixty of Van Gogh’s paintings, drawings, and prints from museums and private collections around the world and will illustrate the considerable efforts made by early promoters of modernism in the United States—dealers, collectors, private art organizations, public institutions, and the artist’s family—to frame his biography and introduce his artistic production to the United States.

Van Gogh in America reveals how America’s view of Van Gogh’s work evolved during the first half of the twentieth century. Despite his work appearing in well over fifty group shows during the two decades following his American debut in the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art (commonly known as the Armory Show), it was not until 1935 that Van Gogh was the subject of a solo museum exhibition in the United States. Around the same time, Irving Stone’s novel Lust for Life was published, and its adaptation into film in 1956 shaped and solidified America’s popular understanding of Van Gogh. These touchstone moments will be explored in the exhibition.

The story, however, is also one that is unique to Detroit and the American Midwest more broadly. The Detroit Institute of Arts was a vanguard institution when it purchased Self-Portrait in 1922 and then exhibited the painting alongside works by Post-Impressionist artists Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, in addition to twentieth-century European and American artists Raoul Dufy, Henri Matisse, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, and Joseph Stella, all of whom will also be represented in the exhibition. It was not until the following decade, however, that other American public, encyclopedic museums followed suit and bought examples of Van Gogh’s paintings for their permanent collections. Notably, the next four paintings were purchased by Midwestern public institutions: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Saint Louis Art Museum; and Toledo Museum of Art. These important purchases—Olive Trees (1889; Nelson-Atkins); Stairway at Auvers (1890; Saint Louis); Houses at Auvers (1890; Toledo); and Wheat Fields with Reaper, Auvers (1890, Toledo)—will be featured in the exhibition.

A full-length, illustrated catalogue with essays by the exhibition curator and Van Gogh scholars will accompany the exhibition. The Detroit Institute of Arts is the exclusive venue for this exhibition.

An audio tour will be available. For group tour requests, please complete the appropriate form here or call 313-833-1292.