Vincent Van Gogh is more than his "Starry Night" or his severed ear. That's what Denver Art Museum curator Timothy Standring is out to illustrate with Becoming van Gogh, an exhibit of 70 van Gogh works (and 20 pieces by van Gogh's contemporaries) on display at the museum through Jan. 20, 2013. After that date, the show will be dismantled, never to be seen together again. "We have to change how we look at van Gogh," Standring said. "We counter former studies of van Gogh that dwelled on his biographical, somewhat mentally deranged state, and we focus on his artistic and conscious decisions."The exhibit, which Standring calls a "slow food exhibit" to savor, shows van Gogh's unconventional path to becoming one of the world's most recognizable artists. The show looks at van Gogh's studio practice and his artistic journey, which started late, when van Gogh was 27 years old. "He failed at four other careers," Standring said. "This was his fifth."One of those failed careers was as a pastor. After being told he lacked some necessary skills to preach, likely of the social variety, Van Gogh turned his attention to art. He committed to mastering the techniques so he could paint visual sermons.
Other interesting tidbits about van Gogh? He read and wrote in four languages. He studied Latin and Greek and read Charles Dickens. Over the course of his career - only 10 short years - he produced 1,000 drawings and 800 paintings."He was extremely smart and keenly obsessed with the downtrodden," Standring said. After spending seven years putting together this exhibit, it's not surprising that Standring is a venerable expert on van Gogh. He worked with 60 different lending entities - museums and private partners - to put together this world premier exhibit, which meant emailing, Skyping and "making telephone calls until they refused to take them," Standring said with a grin. He flew around the world, showing up on people's doorsteps to convince them to loan a van Gogh masterpiece for the show. And considering the Denver Art Museum has no van Gogh works in its permanent collection, and that Denver is the only city to host Becoming van Gogh, this exhibit is quite the accomplishment, and certainly one of the biggest feathers in the DAM's 120-year-old hat. "People need to start planning to get down here," Standring said.