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The Real Van Gogh

The Artist and His Letters

23 January — 18 April 2010

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A landmark exhibition of the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). At the heart of the exhibition is his remarkable correspondence: a unique opportunity to gain insight into this complex artist’s mind.

Born in Zundert in the southern Netherlands in 1853, Vincent van Gogh was the second of six children of a Protestant pastor.

In his early adult life, he worked for a firm of art-dealers in The Hague and London, before becoming a missionary worker. His career as an artist began only in 1880, when he was 27.

During his ten-year artistic career, which his suicide cut tragically short in 1890, Van Gogh’s output was prodigious: largely self-taught, he produced over 800 paintings and 1,200 drawings.

Van Gogh was a compulsive and eloquent correspondent. In reading the letters one encounters not only a sensitive, determined and exceptionally hardworking man, but also someone possessed of a powerful intellect; the exhibition challenges the view that Van Gogh was an erratic genius by allowing the viewer a rare insight into his artistic process through the intimate medium of his correspondence.

Taking the letters as its starting point, The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters views the paintings and drawings from the perspective of the correspondence. The letter sketches that Van Gogh frequently used to show a work in progress or a completed work are a fascinating part of the correspondence, and many are shown alongside the paintings or drawings on which they are based.

Over 35 original letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, are on display; together with around 65 paintings and 30 drawings that express the principal themes to be found within the correspondence.

23 January — 18 April 2010

Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm

Main Galleries, Burlington House

This exhibition has now closed.