Van Gogh / Artaud. The Man Suicided by Society

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Van Gogh, The Man Suicided by Society


Man RayAntonin Artaud© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jacques Faujour © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris 2014
The concept and design of this exhibition is based on the essay by Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society.

In late 1946, Pierre Loeb (1897-1964), founder of the Galerie Pierre in Paris, suggested to Artaud that he should write about Van Gogh, believing that after a nine-year stay in a psychiatric hospital he was eminently well qualified as an artist to write about a painter deemed to be mad. Artaud was in the process of preparing his works for publication and was not enthusiastic about the project.

 

He was spurred to action by the publication of excerpts from psychiatrist François-Joachim Beer's book, Van Gogh's Demonto coincide with the opening of a Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris in late January 1947. Artaud was incensed by Beer's clinical portrayal of the painter's madness and challenged this analysis, accusing society as a whole of driving Van Gogh to suicide by its indifference or in order to "prevent him from uttering unspeakable truths".

"Van Gogh therefore committed suicide because the collective consciousness as a whole could no longer tolerate him".

Vincent van Gogh
 (1853-1890)
 Portrait de l'artiste [Self-Portrait]
 1889
 Oil on canvas
 H. 65; W. 54.5 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay, gift of Paul and Marguerite Gachet, the children of Dr Gachet, 1949
Vincent van GoghSelf-Portrait© Musée d'Orsay, dist.RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Artaud made a brief visit to the exhibition at the Musée de l'Orangerie and drew on its catalogue and on two books with colour illustrations – Vincent van Gogh with text by Wilhelm Uhde (Phaidon, 1936) and Anne-Marie Rosset's Van Gogh (P. Tisné 1941) - to immerse himself in the painter's work. He asked Paule Thévenin, who was helping him with his work, to read aloud Vincent's letters to his brother Theo. The text, made up of fragments in exercise books with revisions and improvised passages, was dictated between 8 February and 3 March 1947 to Paule Thévenin, who transcribed it. The book was published at the end of the year by K éditeur.

 

Drawing on Artaud's analysis and words, this exhibition adopts an entirely new approach to works by Van Gogh familiar to the poet, grouped according to his own descriptions.

The title of the exhibition is based on the title of Antonin Artaud's book, Van Gogh the Man Suicided by Society, © Editions Gallimard, 1974.

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