18 February – 11 June
Two brilliant self-portraits by van Gogh and Gauguin – whose tempestuous friendship created a catalyst in art – are displayed at the Lady Lever Art Gallery 18 February – 11 June 2012, on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Van Gogh’ self-portrait dates from 1887, the year before the two charismatic painters worked together at the Yellow House in Arles in the south of France. Van Gogh rented the house in an attempt to set up a community of artists but only Gauguin joined him, with disastrous results.Early in 1888 both men left Paris to find new inspiration – Gauguin went to Brittany while van Gogh headed south to Arles. Gauguin wanted somewhere with a simpler way of life while van Gogh wanted a sunny climate so he could experiment with colour.Van Gogh invited Gauguin and other artists to join him at Arles but all refused. Eventually Gauguin changed his mind and arrived in October 1888. For nearly two months they lived and worked together while debating and theorising about art and experimenting with painting techniques.They argued a great deal and an intense, brooding atmosphere developed in the house. Gauguin had had enough and talked of returning to Paris – unstable van Gogh became distraught.He threatened his friend with a razor and Gauguin fled – the two men never met again although they wrote to each other. Depressed, lonely and angry van Gogh mutilated his own left ear. He later became a voluntary patient in an asylum before killing himself in July 1890.Gauguin left France for Tahiti in the South Pacific where he set up his Studio in the Tropics and spent most of his remaining life.