Friday, February 09, 2007

The economic impact of Van Gogh's Drawings

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890)
Cottage Garden, 1888
Reed pen, quill, and ink over graphite on wove paper; 61 x 49 cm (24 x 19 1/4 in.)
Private Collection

(For more images of drawings by Van Gogh see the archive of the exhibition "Vincent Van gogh: the Drawings" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's website )

It's well known that Van Gogh paintings are worth millions - but did you know the drawings are as well? It's estimated that the exhibition "Vincent Van Gogh: the Drawings" generated $251 million in spending by regional, national, and foreign tourists to New York according to a press release by the Metropolitan Museum
The landmark Van Gogh drawings exhibition, on view at the Metropolitan from October 18 through December 31, 2005, attracted 459,972 visitors, shattering Museum records for attendance at a show of drawings. The survey found that some 73% of the visitors travelled from outside the five boroughs of New York City, including 24% from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, 37% from other states, and 11% from outside the United States. Two-thirds reported they were staying in local hotels or motels, with a median three-day length of stay.
As the Museum preamble states, prior to the exhibition the drawings were little known
A large and significant part of Van Gogh's production that remains comparatively unknown is featured in this first major American retrospective of the artist's drawings. The exhibition includes a selection of more than 100 works ingeniously composed in pen and ink, graphite, chalk, charcoal, and watercolor, along with a group of related paintings. These graphic images, lent by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and from 50 other public and private collections, brilliantly illustrate Vincent's own dictum: "Drawing is the root of everything."
I was very interested in the impact of the exhibition. It's a good example of the extent to which people have recently begun to understand the importance of drawing to art as a whole. More and more museums are mounting exhibitions of drawings and/or are showing evidence of the drawings and other preparatory work executed prior to a painting.

Plus I really wanted an excuse to post one of my Van Gogh favourite drawings that was on display at this exhibition! Just look at the richness of the mark-making calligraphy within this drawing.

Here's what Eric Gelber ( had to say about it.
In many of the drawings from 1888 and 1889, including Olive Trees, Montmajour, Rocks and Trees, Montmajour, Cottage Garden, and The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles, Van Gogh perfectly balanced expressive and descriptive mark making. In the drawing Cottage Garden the limited number of marks Van Gogh used to create this compelling rendering of observed facts grace it with a seductive vibratory energy. He uses a variety of circles, curved lines, straight lines, and dots to delineate a frothy mass of flora and fauna, open sky with bright sunlight coursing through it, and fences and houses. By playing sparse areas off of busy areas in a breathtakingly rhythmic way he suggests a three dimensional space. Like a number of Impressionist painters Van Gogh loved to challenge himself by trying to render large patches of organic forms that avoid specificity and were constantly reconfigured by the elements, wind especially.
The MMA site provides more images of a sample of the drawings and a slideshow showing good size versions of the drawings.

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  1. I've just listened to Kevin Bacon reading Vincent's letters. Thanks so much for the link - I had only found the Met. children's project. This Van Gogh project is giving me enormous pleasure and stimulation.

  2. As I just posted on Robyn's blog, Amanda of Craftmonkeys and I saw this show together. It was absolutely breathtaking. The cottage garden drawing was among my favorites--there's a whole language of marks in that one, full of nuance and rich meaning. Nice project, Ms K!

  3. you are so informative, where do you find the time to know so much and draw as well? Your blog is becoming my "art magazine" Thank you Katherine.

  4. Robyn - so glad you're finding VG stimulating

    Laura - I am sooooooooo jealous. I'm just regretting that I didn't know that the exhibition was on when it was in Holland

    Sarah - you're welcome!

  5. I was so fortunate to see this exhibition at the Met and purchase the catalog. What I remember so vividly was the large size of the drawings. They were as big as the paintings.


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