Vincent van GoghIn Dr Paul Gachet's Garden© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Gérard Blot
Born in 1927, the American artist John Chamberlain studied at the school of the Chicago Institute of Art, where an exhibition of the Chester Dale collection showing some of Van Gogh’s most beautiful paintings made a deep impression on him. In 1955, he left Chicago to go to the Black Mountain College, an important incubator for post-war American art. During these formative years, Chamberlain was greatly influenced by Abstract Expressionism which had won recognition for American painting at that time, with figures like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, as well as the work of sculptor David Smith, who used everyday materials for his sculptures. Since then, directing his artistic aims towards an intimate and powerful relationship between movement and artwork, John Chamberlain has been creating abstract sculptures using salvaged materials, mainly car body parts and scrap metal which he assembles, compresses, welds, paints… This creative principle leaves beauty to chance and improvisation, the artist judging the effect and composition as the piece is assembled, resulting in an unusual and expressive work. Following the invitation from the Musée d’Orsay and renewing his early interest in Van Gogh, Chamberlain chose Doctor Gachet’s Garden,
with its exuberant vegetation, and confronts it with Lipstick Canteen
, with its coloured metal leaves extending into space.
“So, when I think of the Musée d’Orsay… you could say that I’ve gone full circle, and come back to where I began. It was Van Gogh who got me started in a way, and here I am, fifty years later, coming back to visit him with my sculpture Lipstick Canteen” (conversation with Ann Hindry, April 2007).
Serge Lemoine, President of the Musée d'Orsay, in conjunction with Olivier Gabet, curator, Musée d'Orsay.