Charles Ryder’s Van Gogh

Laura Freeman writing in The Times previews an upcoming exhibit at the Tate Britain. This is Van Gogh in Britain and relates to that artist’s residence in England between 1873-1876.  He was not yet an artist at that time (this had to wait until the mid-1880s) but collected material (including books) that influenced his later artistic output. The exhibit includes his painting Prisoners Exercising, (after Doré) (1890). According to Freeman:

It is the only fully realised painting he made that depicts London. Though, as [curator Carol] Jacobi observes: “Prisoners was intended as a more general painting about the state of imprisonment.” It was painted at the Saint-Paul asylum from a print of Doré’s Newgate: The Exercise Yard. Even the butterflies, fluttering towards freedom, reappear.

Freeman goes on to explain that the exhibit illustrates how Van Gogh’s greatest contribution to British art was the influence his work exercised over British painters:

Roger Fry established Van Gogh in the minds of British artists and the public. There were 27 Van Goghs in Fry’s Manet and the Post-Impressionists exhibition in 1910. One was Van Gogh’s Sunflowers(1888), which fired the imaginations of British artists with hothouse promise. William Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Epstein, Matthew Smith and Frank Brangwyn all painted their own tournesols. This painting formed the tastes of a generation of young men. When Charles Ryder went up to Oxford in 1923 at the beginning of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, it is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers he hangs over the fire.

The exhibit at Tate Britain opens on 27 March and continues through 11 August.

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