Arts / Museums

Paris Art Shows Worthy Traveling Across an Ocean to See — Vincent van Gogh and Dana Schutz In the City of Lights

A Texas Artist Shares His Thoughts

BY Evan Pardue // 01.25.24

Houston-based painter Evan Pardue made an art pilgrimage to Paris to see the work of two iconic artists, both painters, separated by a century. Pardue details a pair of exhibitions that are worthy of a trip across the pond just to see on their own.

“Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: The Final Months” at Musée d’Orsay

Vincent Van Gogh's View of Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890 at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (Photo by © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)
Vincent Van Gogh’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890 at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (Photo by © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

Before the darkness engulfed Vincent van Gogh, the artist made a final journey in 1890 to Auvers-sur-Oise, around an hour northwest of Paris. Over two months, he produced an outstanding number of works that were unique in his oeuvre. This body of work is the focus of a new, powerful exhibition on display at the Musée d’Orsay through February 4.

What separates this from a typical van Gogh exhibition is the superb lighting and the refined context that lets audiences appreciate the misunderstood master. The Musée d’Orsay bucks trends and offers a uniquely focused exhibition, founded in intense scholarship.

Rather than focusing on a descent into madness or other clichés, “The Final Months” prioritizes van Gogh’s ideas. Early rooms center on themes such as “Auvers-sur-Oise, a picturesque village” and “Auvers is seriously beautiful. . .” These prime your eyes on what’s to come.

Works such as The Church at Auvers and Portrait of Dr. Gachet glow under the subtle, elegant lighting and sauve exhibition design. Never overlit or displayed at awkward heights, van Gogh’s works glisten in each room.

Vincent van Gogh's <em>The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise</em>, 1890 at Musée d’Orsay (© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais. Photo by Patrice Schmidt)
Vincent van Gogh’s The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890 at Musée d’Orsay (© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais. Photo by Patrice Schmidt)

The Musée d’Orsay understands the delicate balance needed to show off each painting. Walking through each room, you’ll discover an artist opening himself up to new modes of working.

The crescendo of the show features his unique double-square format paintings. Inspired by earlier painters like Puvis de Chavannes, these larger works are showstoppers. Wheatfield with Crows from the Van Gogh Museum, famously mislabeled as his final painting, is stripped of the dark, macabre narrative others have added.

Take your time here. It’s rare to see these paintings together.

Each work pushes and pulls on one another as he demands more and more of his talents. Landscape at Auvers in the Rain from the National Museum Cardiff is among his greatest works, though rarely fêted. Balancing warm ochre fields with rainy slashes of ultramarine down the painting, Van Gogh reminds us of the beauty in recovery and recuperation. You can’t have the flowy green grass in the other paintings without the rain of this one.

Due to the overwhelming demand for tickets, access to the exhibition is only guaranteed with a reserved time slot. Book an early time slot and you can see the rest of the museum after. This exhibition runs through Sunday, February 4,. For more information and tickets, go here

“Dana Schutz: Le Monde Visible/The Visible World” at Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris

Dana Schutz's <em>Beat Out the Sun</em>, 2018, at Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris (© 2023 Dana Schutz. Courtesy the artist, CFA Berlin, Thomas Dane Gallery and David Zwirner. Photo Jason Mandella)
Dana Schutz’s Beat Out the Sun, 2018, at Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (© 2023 Dana Schutz. Courtesy the artist, CFA Berlin, Thomas Dane Gallery and David Zwirner. Photo Jason Mandella)

Dana Schutz wants to catch you off guard. Just when you think you’ve accepted the consequences of viewing her work, she twists the knife. Stare at the painting Beat Out the Sun (2018) for long enough, and you’ll start to feel complicit — even excited — at the prospect of the ragtag group of men en route to bash out the sun.

“Le Monde Visible” is a retrospective of the artist, from her earliest works in college to paintings from this year. From the beginning of this must-see Paris exhibition, it’s clear the level of genius we’re dealing with from one of the most imitated painters of our time. Her early works, such as Reformers (2004), undulate with gruesome pastels and neons as figures scheme and sacrifice each other.

Flasher, created in 2012, stands out. The paint unfurls as its subject opens his trench coat to reveal the titular flash. The shock of the painting stems from this unfurling, as though the act of the flash itself is opening up a second painting language. The painting’s secrets become revealed and laid bare as the figure grins above, like a football-headed predella, holding up the guts of its own meaning.

Dana Schutz's <em>Flasher</em>, 2012, at Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris (© 2023 Dana Schutz. Courtesy the artist, CFA Berlin, Thomas Dane Gallery and David Zwirner. Photo Jason Mandella)
Dana Schutz’s Flasher, 2012, at Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (© 2023 Dana Schutz. Courtesy the artist, CFA Berlin, Thomas Dane Gallery and David Zwirner. Photo Jason Mandella)

In “Le Monde Visible,” the curators open up a new dialogue on Schutz’s restless pursuit to contradict, challenge and overcome her practice. The newer works taunt and tease, continuously shifting perspective and challenging the urge to find her luminous paint seductive. The colors verge on muddy, and the compositions, like the narratives they embody, dance on the edge of collapsing. Confronted by her mammoth bronze works, like those featured in her new show on view at David Zwirner in New York, the viewer is reminded that these forms were always brewing in the earlier taffy colored horror scapes.

Though Schutz is widely celebrated among painters as a world builder and mythologizer, the way her paintings embody our time shocks and refreshes. As our screens are riddled with dichotomous depictions of luminous skincare scrolling alongside mangled bodies and victims of state violence, Schutz work holds up a new, profound, and piercing reality that lives alongside our present rather than a glimpse into its future or past. No one’s safe in a Dana Schutz painting — including the viewer.

Originating in the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, the show makes its second stop in Paris and shows through Sunday, February 11. For more information and tickets, go here. Schutz’ catalog “Between Us” is available in French and English here

Author’s note: Evan Pardue is an artist based in Houston whose medium is painting. A BFA grad of Kansas City Art Institute, Pardue is a member of Visual Arts Alliance. His canvases have been featured in Lawndale Art Center’s The Big Show.

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