Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, oil on cardboard.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will unveil a new Vincent van Gogh exhibition this Sunday, offering a rare—perhaps once-in-a-lifetime—opportunity to see the iconic Dutch painters’ masterpieces up close and in person. The exhibition runs through June 27.

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art showcases 56 Van Gogh paintings and drawings, most of which rarely travel from their homes in the two largest repositories of his work: the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, in the Netherlands. About a dozen additional works by the artist on loan from other museums and private collections round out the display to fully illustrate his short yet productive life.

Vincent van Gogh, Irises, oil on canvas

The exhibition includes some of the artist’s most recognizable subjects, such as a dazzling bouquet of irises and a brooding self-portrait. David Bomford, the museum’s Audrey Jones Beck Curator of European Art, says some of the images may be familiar, yet they look dramatically different in person.

“On screen, they might not look like anything special, but seeing the three-dimensional paintings properly lit is an amazing experience,” Bomford says.

Over the Van Gogh’s of his brief career, which spanned from 1880 to 1890, he doggedly pursued his own artistic path, developing a style uniquely his own, with densely textured surfaces and vivid complementary colors. His floral still lifes seem to vibrate on the canvas. Colorful brushstrokes enliven his self-portraits. His thick application of paint gives dimension to workers laboring in sun-drenched fields.

The MFAH exhibition guides visitors through Van Gogh’s artistic evolution: from the dark, earthy palette of his early years to his lighter, more impressionistic canvases in Paris, and from the vibrant paintings that he produced in Provence to the intimate scenes made during his final days of declining mental health. Along the way, Van Gogh depicted the people, places, and everyday objects that he encountered: peasants and café owners, olive groves and wheat fields, baskets of lemons and plates of onions.

Vincent van Gogh, The Langlois Bridge at Arles

The exhibition amplifies the experience with large-scale photomurals of some of Van Gogh’s letters, drawings, and paintings, along with display cases showing a few of the tools of his trade. For a more hands-on experience, visit the accompanying Van Gogh for All interactive exhibit designed for children. Here, aspiring young artists can make their own floral still-life or self-portrait compositions, venture into Van Gogh’s bedroom and studio, and even animate the swirling clouds of The Starry Night.

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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