The Phillips Collection is currently hosting an exhibition titled Van Gogh’s Repetitions, which looks at Vincent van Gogh’s artistic process in creating copies of his own work.  The title of the exhibition comes from Van Gogh himself, who called his similar versions of the same subject “Repetitions”.

Van Gogh had the ability to create a sketch or painting in an amazingly short period of time creating the inaccurate belief that this is how he always worked.  In reality he would frequently begin creating the work of a person or landscape from life and then return to his studio where he would repeat the subject reworking his idea on a fresh canvas.  The Van Gogh’s Repetitions exhibition explores a more methodical and controlled side to Van Gogh’s work.

The Road Menders (The Phillips Collection) and The Large Plane Trees (The Cleveland Museum of Art) were the works which inspired the exhibition.

Van Gogh Painting The Road Menders Van Gogh Painting The Large Plane Trees

On January 28, 1889, Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo and mentioned some of this work on repetitions,

“Now by continuing this furious work during next February and March, I shall hope to have finished the quietly composed repetitions of a number of studies I made last year. And these together with some canvases you have already had from me, such as the “Harvest” and the “White Orchard,” will form a tolerably firm foundation.”

These repetitions included several versions of La Berceuse (Auguste Roulin)

Van Gogh Painting La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Van Gogh La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin)
Van Gogh La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Van Gogh La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin)

Van Gogh mentioned these repetitions to Theo again in a letter from Arles on February 22, 1889,

“Roulin also left to go and live temporarily with her mother in the country, she took “La Berceuse” with her. I had the study of it and two repetitions. She had a good eye and took the best, only I am doing it again at the moment and I do not want it to be inferior.”

Van Gogh also created repetitions for his family.  On December 20, 1889, Van Gogh wrote to his sister Wilhelmina and said,

“I hope you will like the canvas for you and Mother which I am working on at present a little. It is a repetition of a picture for Theo, women gathering olives.”

Van Gogh Painting Olive Picking Van Gogh Olive Picking
Olive Picking Painting

Other repetitions by Van Gogh include The Madame Ginoux Portraits, Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin, and Vincents Bedroom in Arles.

Van Gogh’s Repetitions features over 30 works including portraits and landscapes.  The show will be open through January 26, 2014.  The Phillips Collection is located at 1600 21st Street NW, Washington, DC, USA.

Letter Sources:
http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/19/574.htm
http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/19/578.htm
http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/20/W18.htm

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