Connections in the Creative Visions of Vincent Van Gogh and Clyfford Still Explored in Exhibition and Public Programs at Still Museum This Fall
Denver, CO – August 7, 2012 – This fall, the Clyfford Still Museum will present a focused exhibition exploring connections between Vincent Van Gogh and Clyfford Still—in particular those found during the initial decades of the latter’s career, before the crystallization of what would become his signature Abstract Expressionist style. Opening September 14, 2012, Vincent/Clyfford coincides with the Denver Art Museum’s landmark presentation Becoming Van Gogh (October 21, 2012 through January 20, 2013), and will be complemented by a series of public programs that invite visitors to discover parallels in the work and creative visions of the 19th-century Dutch painter and 20th-century American artist. The exhibition is curated by David Anfam, the Museum’s Adjunct Curator, and will remain on view in the Hugh Grant and Merle Chambers Gallery through January 20, 2013.
“As the Denver Art Museum invites visitors to explore the development of Van Gogh’s creative aesthetic in Becoming Van Gogh, we are excited to provide our visitors with a unique lens to examine the Dutchman’s significant influence on American artists decades later and experience first-hand how it reverberated throughout Still’s early work,” said Dean Sobel, Director, Clyfford Still Museum. “Vincent/Clyfford enlivens our understanding not only of Still’s stylistic development, but also of the myriad connections that his work has to generations of artists before and after him, that we are able to examine only now, after the Museum’s opening.”
In the early twentieth century, the once-neglected Van Gogh became highly regarded among European artists, collectors, and critics. By the 1920s, Van Gogh had attained huge popularity in the United States, culminating in the 1930s with Irving Stone’s romanticized biography Lust for Life (1934) and the Museum of Modern Art’s blockbuster retrospective the following year.
Vincent/Clyfford features approximately 20 paintings and works on paper created by Still during this formative period of his career, from the late 1920s and 1930s. These works display direct parallels with Van Gogh’s preferred subject matter—including vignettes of agrarian labor, moody landscapes treated as soul-scapes, and dark interior scenes—as well as his use of the grotesque to accentuate the plight of
human beings living on the edge. Still’s tough childhood experiences farming on the prairies of Alberta, Canada, aligned him with Van Gogh’s own close identification with the land and those who toiled on it to survive; both artists translated these experiences and perspectives into their creative output. Cycles of growth, decay, and rebirth in their work are evoked through recurrent symbols such as corn, the sun, and the sower. Still’s paintings also echo Van Gogh’s in their rich color palette and heavily troweled painterly surfaces.
“We are certain Clyfford Still identified with Vincent Van Gogh on myriad levels, not least of which was their shared commitment to art as a kind of religious faith, and their mutual sense of themselves as outsiders,” said Anfam. “Both envisioned the role of the artist as a moral force within society, and neither painter was afraid of pictorial ugliness as an expression of sincerity in their respective creative output.”
The exhibition will include extended wall text as well as interpretive materials that illustrate reproductions of Van Gogh works so that visitors can explore these aesthetic, gestural, and thematic comparisons directly. In addition, the Still Museum will launch a series of special gallery talks and public programs that invite further examination of the work and aesthetic styles of these two iconic artists.
Public Programs include:
Vincent/Clyfford Keynote Lecture Friday, September 14, 2012, at 6 p.m. Denver Art Museum’s Sharp Auditorium
$10 public; $5 Clyfford Still Museum members
Join renowned art historian, critic, and curator David Anfam for a keynote presentation exploring the parallel creative visions of Vincent Van Gogh and Clyfford Still tied to the exhibition’s opening. The Clyfford Still Museum will remain open that evening until 8 p.m. so that guests can visit its galleries after the lecture at DAM.
Anfam has served as an adjunct curator at the Still Museum since 2010 and has been a member of its advisory committee since 2006. Major exhibitions curated by Anfam include the Clyfford Still Museum’s inaugural exhibition, which he co-organized with Director Dean Sobel; Abstract Expressionism: A World Elsewhere as the inaugural show of the Haunch of Venison New York (2008); Bill Viola’s Ocean Without a Shore for the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007); Mark Rothko: A Retrospective (1994), which traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, to venues throughout Japan; and Mark Rothko: The Chapel Commission(1996) at the Menil Collection, Houston, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel.
Members Only: Director Tours of Vincent/Clyfford
Monday, October 8th, 2012, at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Hugh Grant and Merle Chambers Gallery
Free for Members. Reservations required; call 720-354-4871
Join Director Dean Sobel for a tour of Vincent/Clyfford. Please note that space is limited. We expect these tours to fill up quickly.
One Painting at a Time: Perspectives
Thursday, November 8, 2012, at 1 p.m.
Clyfford Still Museum’s Lanny and Sharon Martin Galleries Free with Museum admission.
Seating capacity is limited and is available 30 minutes prior to the program on a first-come, first-served basis.
Timothy J. Standring, the Denver Art Museum’s Gates Foundation curator of painting and sculpture, and curator of the exhibition Becoming Van Gogh, will select a painting from Vincent/Clyfford as the focus of his gallery talk.
FILM/STILL: Lust for Life, directed by Vincente Minelli, 1956
Thursday, January 10, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.
Denver Film Center/Colfax
$12 public; $10 Clyfford Still Museum and Denver Film Society members Visit denverfilm.org for tickets, available starting September 1.
Vincente Minnelli’s 1956 biopic Lust for Life is arguably the best of several films about the painter Vincent Van Gogh. The film is based on Irving Stone’s romanticized biography of the artist published in 1934, which dramatically raised awareness of the work of the artist in the United States and was notably followed by a major Van Gogh retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1935.
Vincent, Vincente, and the Image of the Artist
Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:30 p.m.
Clyfford Still Museum’s Anschutz Foundation Atrium
$10 public; $7 Museum members
Museum doors open for program at 6 p.m. and the galleries will remain open for 30 minutes following the program.
Following the previous week’s screening of Lust for Life, join James Naremore, a specialist in film criticism and modern literature and a professor emeritus of at Indiana University, at the Still Museum in a discussion exploring the film’s romantic but contradictory representation of Van Gogh. Naremore, whose research centers on cultural politics, compares the film with the public image of the Abstract Expressionists, who rose to popularity at virtually the same time.
Special Exhibition Tours
Private tours of Vincent/Clyfford will be offered from September 15, 2012 through January 6, 2013. Maximum 30 guests per tour. Please indicate preference of a Vincent/Clyfford tour when scheduling.
Tour fees include admission and are based on the type of group (senior, adult, or student). We require three weeks’ notice to schedule private tours, which are subject to availability.
About The Clyfford Still Museum
The Clyfford Still Museum was founded to promote public and scholarly understanding of the late artist’s work and legacy, through the presentation and preservation of the Clyfford Still and Patricia Still estates, donated to the City of Denver in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and totaling approximately 2,400 artworks. Considered one of the most important painters of the twentieth century, Still (1904 – 1980) was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists who developed a new, powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II. The Stills’ estates—now understood to contain 94 percent of the artist’s total output—as well as his extensive archive, were sealed off from the public from 1980 to 2011.
The new museum is in the heart of the city’s Civic Center Cultural Complex. The Clyfford Still Museum has raised approximately $32 million to date in support of its new building, endowment and operations; capital project funding has been raised entirely from private sources. Separately, the City and County of Denver has raised approximately $99 million dollars in support of the museum’s endowment through the public auction and one-time sale of four works from the Patricia Still estate. For more information about the Clyfford Still Museum, please visit www.clyffordstillmuseum.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.