Some art exhibitions seem perfectly matched with the season in which they appear. Vincent van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes, which is on view at Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Basel through September 27, is just such a show. Presenting 70 paintings borrowed from private collections and major international museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, this comprehensive exhibition displays some of Van Gogh’s best summer pictures—capturing the season from the first buds that herald its coming to the harvest that follows it.
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Billed as the first international survey of the legendary artist’s landscapes and touted as “the most important European art event in 2009,” Between Earth and Heaven charts the development of van Gogh’s artistic language. The simple hues of his early Dutch landscapes give way to the vibrancy of expression and color found in his paintings made in the south of France. We see pastel flowerbeds and thatched-roof houses in Holland in 1883, the harvesting of golden grain under a cerulean blue sky in Provence in 1888, and the rich plains of Auvers in 1890.
Paintings of fishermen in boats at sea in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and in the river by the Pont de Clichy in Paris are also featured, along with the occasional self-portrait, in which the spirit of the artist is realized in paint pulled directly from the tube. An influential painter who formed the mold for the troubled artist and free creative genius, van Gogh paintings please the senses while exciting the eye. As summer reaches its zenith, these landscapes provide a welcome touchstone to seasons past.