Vincent van Gogh, The Blute-fin Mill, 1886, oil on canvas, 21 3/4 x 15".

“Becoming Van Gogh”

Denver Art Museum

Vincent van Gogh, The Blute-fin Mill, 1886, oil on canvas, 21 3/4 x 15".

Vincent van Gogh’s last years—which witnessed the production of such canvases as The Starry Night, 1889, and Wheatfield with Crows, 1890; the ear episode; and his untimely demise—exert an inexorable pull, often serving to define the Post-Impressionist’s career as a whole. In some ways, this isn’t surprising, considering the relative brevity of van Gogh’s active period (barely ten years) and the lurid fascination with his decline, at least in the popular imagination. But it isn’t the public alone who have privileged van Gogh’s late period: In the catalogue for a 1984 show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, curator Ronald Pickvance described the artist’s time in Arles, France (in 1888 and 1889) as “the zenith, the climax, the greatest flowering of van Gogh’s decade of artistic activity.” Recently, however, a number of exhibitions have broken with this

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