Van Gogh Painting on Display at The Butler

By Graig Graziosi

“In The Dunes,” 1883. Now on display at the Butler Institute of American Art. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
“In The Dunes,” 1883. Now on display at the Butler Institute of American Art. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Youngstown fans of Vincent van Gogh no longer need to travel to the Museum of Modern Art to see a piece of the artist’s collection — a quick trip to the Butler Institute of American Art will do the job.

Last week, the Butler received an original Van Gogh painting thanks to a donation from a private collector. The painting “In the Dunes” was created in 1883, early in Van Gogh’s painting career.

The work is currently on display in the Butler’s room dedicated to American Impressionism.

Wayne Gruber, a preparator for the Butler, helped prepare the museum for the arrival and exhibition of the painting.

“Acquiring the piece was something that had been in the works for awhile. Essentially, the private collector who loaned us the piece felt it would be better served as a piece here with us,” Gruber said. “In preparing to receive the piece, two of our major concerns were security, for obvious reasons, and how we would present the piece, as we are an American art museum and Van Gogh was a Dutch painter.”

While Van Gogh was not an American artist, the Butler has showcased his work in a room dedicated to American Impressionism. The display, which is a large three-finned wall, includes the work, a letter Van Gogh penned around the time he painted the piece and a display detailing Van Gogh’s relation to American art and artists.

The painting — which displays a scene of a field and forested area outside The Hague, Netherlands — shows early evidence of the artist’s style, though those expecting to see the vibrant colors and swirls associated with his more famous works, like “The Starry Night,” will instead see a different side to Van Gogh’s work.

“This piece was from Van Gogh’s early life, when he was studying and replicating the styles of other artists. This work is Van Gogh developing what would become his style, and replicating the styles of other artists before breaking off and defining your own style is not uncommon to see in art,” Gruber said.

“In the Dunes” will premiere at the Butler on March 26, but word of mouth has brought a large number of art enthusiasts to the museum since the arrival of the painting last week.

“It’s been up for about a week, but people have been showing up once they hear it’s here. We expect a large uptick in traffic next week as more media outlets have been reporting on the piece. Last week there was a spike in traffic as soon as we received the piece,” Gruber said.

Van Gogh, who committed suicide at 37 after only a 10 year painting career, produced a substantial amount of work despite his short life. As a result of his posthumous popularity and the breadth of his work, Van Gogh pieces can be found on display on every continent except Antarctica.

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