The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

DMA harvests Van Gogh’s ‘Sheaves of Wheat’ through Jan. 7

Etchings, oil paintings, wood engravings, drawings in charcoal, ink and crayon-more than 50 pieces of art in the Dallas Museum of Art’s J.E.R. Chilton Galleries are centered on one agricultural product: wheat.

People today might honor the four-foot high grass for pancakes, beer and sliced bread, but Vincent Van Gogh and his late 19th century contemporaries found ample inspiration in the grain.

The DMA’s latest exhibit, “Van Gogh’s Sheaves of Wheat,” opened Oct. 22 and runs through Jan. 7. It shows 19 paintings and drawings by Van Gogh and dozens more by artists like Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Jean-Francois Millet and Claude Monet.

“Sheaves of Wheat,” the largest showing of Van Gogh’s work in the Southwest in 40 years, celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, which includes 1,400 objects donated by Wendy in honor of her late husband, in 1985.

One masterpiece of the collection, Van Gogh’s “Sheaves of Wheat” is the inspiration and focus of the current exhibit.

Van Gogh’s trademark thick, choppy brushstrokes depict blue and gold freshly harvested sheaves in a field.

Just weeks before his death in July 1890, Van Gogh completed the painting, which is one of a series of 12.

Above the painting is a line from a letter from Van Gogh to Emile Bernard saying, “I even work in the wheat fields, in the full midday sun, without any protection…I bask in it like the crickets.”

According to Dr. Bradley Fratello, assistant professor at St. Louis Community College, and contributor to the exhibition catalogue, Van Gogh didn’t just dabble in painting wheat… it was a lifelong obsession.

In his lecture at the Harvest Celebration, the latest Late Night at the Dallas Museum of Art, which takes place every third Friday from 6 p.m. to midnight, Fratello explained that in Van Gogh’s work, “the cycle of the harvest was a metaphor for the human condition” and his personal life and creative process.

Van Gogh and his contemporaries lived in cities, so they idealized wheat and agricultural laborers and emphasized comfort and fertility in their art.

The motif engrossed Van Gogh so much he committed suicide in a field of wheat.

The exhibit is unlike any other Van Gogh show not only because it concentrates on one theme, but also because it includes work by other artists.

According to DMA Manager of Gallery Interpretation,

Laura Bruck, the show sought to break away from Van Gogh myths and other retrospective exhibits of Van Gogh, who has become a household name.

“By focusing on one motif, you draw a richer picture of Van Gogh and the time he worked in, and you can explore how he interacted with other artists,” said Bruck. DMA member Judi Wheeler attended the pre-showing for members during the Harvest Celebration and praised the novelty of the exhibit.

“I love the idea-I got to see the variance on one subject and how different artists did it.”

However, her friend Jayne Bassel complained there wasn’t enough Van Gogh.

Whether for or against, viewers have a good chance of finding something they like.

Examine realist work by Julien Dupre, geometric, symbolist work by Emile Bernard, or soft, impressionist Monet paintings.

The show also features a viewer interaction room.

It includes maps, a Van Gogh timeline and definitions of 19th century art terms on the walls.

Visitors can read letters by Van Gogh or learn about wheat on the five computers available and keep kids busy at a book table.

Dr. Dorothy Kosinsky, senior curator of painting and sculpture and the Barbara Thomas Lemmon curator of European art at the DMA spent two years bringing everything together for this one-stop show.

Kosinsky gathered paintings on loan from museums across the U.S., Finland, Amsterdam, France, Norway and even Israel.

Over the past year, Bruck worked with Kosinsky on equally important details.

Even after researching, helping with the catalogue, and creating the audio tour for the exhibit, Bruck hasn’t grown tired of wheat or Van Gogh.

A poster of “Sheaves of Wheat” hangs in her office and she said she likes Van Gogh’s work even more than when she started the process.

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