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Frick Collection presents Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of a Peasant

The Frick Collection will present Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier). The painting has not left its home institution, the Norton Simon Museum, in Pasadena, CA, in nearly forty years, making this a particularly rare and exciting viewing opportunity for East Coast audiences. This modern masterpiece will be shown in the Frick’s Oval Room from October 30, 2012, through January 20, 2013, and will be accompanied by lectures and gallery talks.

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier), Arles, August 1888, oil on canvas, 25 3/8 x 21 ½ inches, Norton Simon Art Foundation

The special loan is part of an ongoing exchange program with the Norton Simon Museum that began in 2009 when a group of five works from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries travelled to New York. Other loans have followed: the Frick’s Comtesse d’Haussonville by Ingres was shown at the Norton Simon in the fall of 2009, and Memling’s Portrait of a Man is currently on view there, remaining through the end of April.

The van Gogh presentation in New York is being coordinated by Frick Senior Curator Susan Galassi, who comments, “Our exchange program with the Norton Simon Museum has offered both institutions opportunities to see their works in different contexts. For the most part, we have featured artists not represented in our own holdings, as is the case with the selection of this remarkable van Gogh portrait. In this instance, the timing feels particularly fortunate, as we’ve spent the last year focusing on artists— Renoir and Picasso—active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and somewhat contemporary to museum founder Henry Clay Frick. These efforts have led us to consider, among other things, the influences upon these later artists by forebears such as Rembrandt, and placing a van Gogh among our holdings in the coming fall is sure to continue this exploration fruitfully.” Support for the exhibition is generously provided by Agnes Gund.

Van Gogh’s Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier) was painted in Arles in the heart of Provence during the artist’s stay in the area in 1888–90, a period of innovation and intense productivity. Van Gogh (1853–1890) first alluded to his potential sitter in a letter to his brother Theo noting the resemblance of the old peasant to their father. Shortly thereafter he introduced his subject by name and enclosed a drawing made after the portrait: “You will shortly make the acquaintance of Mr. Patience Escalier—a sort of man with a hoe, an old Camargue oxherd, who’s now a gardener at a farmstead in the Crau.” His reference to a “man with a hoe” refers to the well-known painting of the same name by Jean-François Millet, an artist van Gogh greatly admired and with whom he shared a love of “rough” subjects, which he referred to as paintings en sabots (in clogs).

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