There were some old favorites, including a painting owned by my former employer and another I remembered from school trips into the city,
Vincent Van Gogh, Roses, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1991.67.1
as well as paintings entirely new to me in the most brilliant colors:
Vincent Van Gogh, Wheat Fields (The Plain of Auvers) July 1890, oil on canvas, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 68.18
But what made the exhibition truly extraordinary were the letters and sketches displayed alongside the paintings. The RA exhibition is actually a small part of a larger show organized to celebrate the new edition of Van Gogh's letters published by the Van Gogh Museum last year:
This is the first time I've ever coveted an artist's complete correspondence. But, as revealed by the exhibition, Van Gogh was as much a genius in language as in paint. He cared deeply about writing and chose and used his words to great effect:
'There are so many people, especially among our pals, who imagine that words are nothing. On the contrary, don't you think, it's as interesting and as difficult to say a thing well as to paint a thing.' (letter to Emile Bernard, 1888)
I found myself lingering over each and every letter, reading the English translation, scrutinizing the sketches in the margins...
Vincent Van Gogh, Letter 783 from Vincent Van Gogh to Theo Van Gogh: Cypresses, 25 June 1889, Van Gogh Museum
then comparing the words and sketches to the painting described:
Vincent Van Gogh, Cypresses, June 1889, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 49.30
Simply brilliant and most definitely worth a go! But alas my silly puns only work when his name is pronounced in the American way. Sigh.