Van Gogh and the Thames

I sometimes mention Vincent Van Gogh teaching at Isleworth although this was only for  a short time.

The Real Van Gogh exhibition opening at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday reminds us that the artist knew the river downstream at Lambeth and Westminster much better.

On display is a letter written in Paris in 1875 where he writes: “I crossed Westminster Bridge every morning and evening and know what it looks like when the sun’s setting behind Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and what it’s like early in the morning, and in winter with snow and fog.”

He was recalling the previous year when he had spent twelve menths crossing the bridge daily on his way to work at an art dealer in Southampton Street off the Strand.

Van Gogh was living at first in Brixton and then in Kennington Road from where it was a short walk up Westminster Bridge Road.

In 1876 he was back in England teaching at Isleworth for a few months. In November he preached at Petersham Methodist Church which he sketched.

The exhibition’s full title is The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters so there are none of his English paintings as these do not feature in his letters. But this is a major show. I have never seen so many people at an RA press view.

There was even a media frenzy around his self portrait when members of the Van Gogh family appeared.

The souvenir shop is fun with mugs, bags, fridge magnets, trays and Oyster card wallets.

The exhibition runs daily from Saturday 23 January to Sunday 18 April.

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