This weekend the Denver Art Museum opens Becoming Van Gogh, an exhibition that explores the inspirations and influences which made van Gogh, well, van Gogh. You can read more about the evolution of this remarkable curatorial feat, which involves loans from over 60 public and private collections around the world, in a Wall Street Journal preview published earlier this month. Among them, visitors will discover The Phillips Collection’s c. 1875 painting Bouquet by the French artist Monticelli (1824-1886). Duncan Phillips wrote of Monticelli in 1954:
“How could we have failed to see that Monticelli at his best . . . is the link connecting the Romanticism of Delacroix with the Expressionism of Van Gogh and with all subsequent Expressionists down to our own day? It was Van Gogh himself who first sensed this truth.”
Indeed, van Gogh had written to his brother Theo of his desire to paint the splashes of orange, yellow, and red flowers under the brilliant blue sky of the South, where everything “vibrates like the bouquet of Monticelli which you have.”
Do you recognize in Monticelli’s work the energetic brushwork and thick layers of impasto that we’ve come to associate with his more-famous admirer?
I wonder if Van Gogh did not admire Monticelli’s work, would we be looking at it today? Would Monticelli vhave disappeared?