Laura Owens & Vincent van Gogh



Laura Owens, Untitled, 1997                                                                                                             
Whitney Museum, New York                                                                                                         

Vincent van Gogh, Dandelions, Arles, April 1889
Oil on canvas, 35.5 × 57 cm
Gift from Dr Herbert and Charlotte Wolfer-de Armas, 1973
Kunst Museum Winterthur


In Summer 2020, the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles will present an exhibition bringing together new works by the American artist Laura Owens with eight paintings by Van Gogh, most made in and around Arles. Owens is one of the most celebrated American artists working today, and her new works will host, and respond to Van Gogh’s paintings.

Owens has known Van Gogh’s work from childhood, and she has looked at his art in various ways over her career. One of her breakthrough paintings, now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Untitled (1997), shows black birds over a seascape, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows (1890). Owens’s dramatic use of impasto, especially since 2012, recalls the textures of Van Gogh’s most famous works. Van Gogh’s interest in setting up an artists’ community in Arles is echoed in Owens’s efforts to create a space for other artists to exhibit, adjacent to her studio in Mission Road in Los Angeles.

The eight Van Gogh paintings to be shown in Arles include loans from museums with which Owens has a deep connection. Hospital at Saint-Rémy (1889) comes from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, her current residence, while The Poplars at Saint-Rémy (1889) is lent by the Cleveland Museum, where Owens grew up. Other key loans include The Fields, painted in Auvers-sur-Oise shortly before Van Gogh died.

Laura Owens has often addressed the architecture of the galleries and museums where she has exhibited, and in this vein, she will create a series of  wallpapers to cover the entire walls of each room where the Van Gogh works are exhibited. These wallpapers will be based on motifs or colours in the paintings. Two early paintings by Owens will be included – the seagulls and one other – while new paintings made in Los Angeles and in Arles will respond to the Van Gogh works.

Co-curated by Bice Curiger and Mark Godfrey, the exhibition at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles will show how Laura Owens explores Van Gogh’s images, colours, methods and materials, and the manner in which he addressed indoor and outdoor spaces in Arles.


Laura Owens (b. 1970) has been acclaimed as one of the leading painters of her generation. Owens was recently the subject of a mid-career retrospective at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017-2018), which traveled to the Dallas Museum of Art (2018) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018-2019), featuring some 60 paintings dating from the 1990s to the present.
Over the course of her career, Owens has become recognized for her ranging and experimental approach to the medium of painting – an approach that embraces a breadth of sources from the avant-garde to the pop cultural to the decorative.
Recent solo exhibitions include those at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2016); Secession, Vienna (2015); and Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany (2011).

Owens was born in Ohio and studied at California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. She lives and works in Los Angeles.


VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
Vincent van Gogh is born on 30 March 1853 in Groot-Zundert in the Netherlands. At the age of 16 he joins Goupil & Cie, a firm of art dealers in The Hague, and subsequently works in the company’s offices in Brussels, London and finally Paris. He gradually loses interest in the commercial art world and, in 1878–79, he becomes a lay preacher in a mining community in the Borinage area of Belgium.
In August 1880 Van Gogh decides to become an artist. He wants to be a painter of everyday life, and, above all, of peasant life, following in the footsteps of artists such as Jean-François Millet. Landscapes and still lifes, too, become an important part of his oeuvre. In 1886 in Paris he discovers Japanese prints and he meets Impressionist artists.
Convinced that colour is the key to modernity, Van Gogh leaves for Provence in search of bright light and vibrant colours. Dreaming of establishing a community of artists, in February 1888 he settles in Arles. Gauguin joins him in October, but their collaboration collapses in late December 1888. Disappointed and ill, in May 1889 Van Gogh has himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy, where he remains for a whole year. He continues with his search for an expressive art based on colour and brush strokes, creating more than 500 paintings and drawings during his 27 months in Provence.
In May 1890 Van Gogh moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, where in just over two months he produces the final 70 paintings of an oeuvre that comprises more than 2,000 works. He dies on 29 July 1890 at the age of 37.
Van Gogh’s artistic genius and the poignant story of his life transform him into a veritable international icon.

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