Monday, March 30, 2020

Van Gogh's paintings in Doctor Who

Vincent Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853, and this evening my clever friend Emily Cook at Doctor Who Magazine has organised a special online watch of 2010 Doctor Who episode Vincent and the Doctor, with tweeting along by writer Richard Curtis, script editor Emma Freud and stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Tony Curran.

The Lord of Chaos has greatly enjoyed the last two tweet-alongs, but I suspect tonight he'll want to know more about the paintings featured in the episode. So I have made a list.

1. Wheat Field with Crows, July 1890
The episode begins with Van Gogh painting what some have said is his last work, a wheat field with crows. We then cut to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, in the present day, where the picture is part of a special exhibition of Van Gogh's work - and presumably on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

2. Self-portrait with straw hat, summer 1887
As Bill Nighty's unnamed art expert expounds, we see more pictures in the exhibition. This self-portrait is now in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

3. Olive Trees, 1888
The art expert passes a screen on which can be seen this sketch of olive trees, now held by the Musée des Beaux-Arts Tournai in Tournai, Belgium.

4. Road with Men Walking etc. 17 June 1890
The screen changes, to show this sketch contained in a letter Van Gogh wrote on 17 June 1890, listed as "Road with Men Walking, Carriage, Cypress, Star, and Crescent Moon" in the collections of the Van Gogh Museum.

5. The Starry Night, June 1889
Now the Doctor and Amy breeze into shot, and we get glances at a range of paintings on display - which we'll get clearer views of later. The Starry Night, which will be a pivotal one later in the episode, is now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

6. Still Life: Vase with 12 Sunflowers, c. 1888-89
Across the gallery, we get a glimpse of this, one of numerous paintings of sunflowers by Van Gogh. This one is now in the Bavarian State Painting Collections, Munich.

7. Wheat Field with Cypresses, late June 1889
Back in the main part of the gallery, there's this wheat field which is now owned by the Met in New York.

8. La Berceuse, December 1888 to early 1889
Next to it is one of the five portraits Van Gogh produced of Augustine-Alix Pellicot Roulin, wife of the postmaster at Arles. I'm not sure I've got the right one of the five - this one is from the Met collection.

9. Road with Cypress and Star, May 1890
Then there's this, one of a number of paintings of the same scene - as sketched in the letter (image 4, above). This seems to be the right one, with the distinctive curves of the tree and green patch of grass in the road at the bottom centre. This one is from the Kröller-Müller Museum, in the Netherlands.

10. Siesta, or Noon: Rest from Work (after Millet),January 1890
Next, there's this famous one of a sleeping couple, today in the Musee D'Orsay.

11. Wheat Field with Thunderclouds, mid to late July 1890
This one is next is thought to be the first of the sequence that culminated in Wheat Field with Crows (image 1). I wasn't sure at first as the version on screen seems to be a different shape and the clouds more grey, but the triangle of green in the middle seems to match exactly. It's now in the Van Gogh Museum.

12. Portrait of Dr Gachet (second version), 1890
This is one of two portraits of Dr Paul Gachet,  both painted in June 1890. This one is in the Musee D'Orsay collection.

13. The Yellow House, September 1888
Showing 2 Place Lamartine in Arles, this is the house Van Gogh rented - and shared for nine weeks with Paul Gaugin. The painting is now in the Van Gogh Museum.

14. Church at Auvers, June 1890
We focus on Church at Auvers because - in the episode - there's a monster in the window. The painting is now in the Musee D'Orsay. The art expert tells the Doctor it was painted between 1 and 3 June 1890.

15. Bedroom in Arles, 1888
Next the painting of the church hangs Bedroom in Arles, which the episode later recreates as a set - a joke surely lifted from the 1991 Guinness ad. The painting is now in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum.

16. Blossoming Almond Tree, February 1890
Shocked by the monster in the church window, the Doctor dashes past three paintings hanging together. We see them in a blur, but get a better look later on. This one of a blossoming almond tree is in the Van Gogh Museum.

17. Portrait of Marguerite Gachet at the Piano, June 1890
This is a portrait of Marguerite, daughter of Dr Paul Gachet (see in image 12).  It's in the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland.

18. Irises, May 1889
This is now in the collection of the Getty, Los Angeles. This is the last of the paintings shown in the pre-titles sequence.

19. Cafe at Night, 1888
On arriving in 1890, the Doctor and Amy look for Van Gogh and Amy matches this painting, seen in her book of postcards from the exhibition, to the exterior set.  This is the cafe terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, and the painting is now in the collections of the Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands.

When we meet Van Gogh in the episode, he is arguing over the merits of his self-portrait with straw hat (image 2). When he talks to the Doctor and Amy, he also unrolls some of the canvas for Siesta (image 10).

Amy and the Doctor follow Vincent home, and Amy looks at her postcard of the Bedroom (image 15) before entering Vincent's house. The house contains many of the pictures we've also seen - the Yellow House, both Gachet portraits, the apple blossom - as well a still life of flowers in a vase with a red background that Van Gogh will later paint over in the episode. There is one we've not seen before:

20. Prisoners' Round, after Doré, 1890.
This was inspired by an 1872 engraving by Gustave Doré of the exercise yard at Newgate Prison in London. Van Gogh's painting is now in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

There are also various sketches pinned around Van Gogh's home which I've not yet identified.

21. Still Life with Basket and 6 Oranges, March 1888
The Doctor chides Van Gogh for using the above as a tea tray. It's now held in a private collection.

22. Self-portrait as Painter, Dec 1887-Feb 1888
Finally, when the Doctor goes to see Van Gogh in his bedroom (the set designed to match image 15), this self-portrait is on one wall. It's now in the Van Gogh Museum.

After this, Amy fills Van Gogh's garden with sunflowers, as per his famous still lives. We then see him paint the Church at Auvers (image 14), and he shares with Amy and the Doctor his view of the night sky (an animated version of image 5). We return to the exhibition in the present day, giving us a better look at paintings glimpsed in the pre-titles sequence.

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