Don’t worry — he’ll be back.
Vincent van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gaugin,” an image of the artist framed against a brilliant green background, one of the Harvard Art Museums’ most beloved works, is on loan to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam this spring and early summer.
In the interim, another Harvard treasure, a Picasso rarely on view due to light sensitivity, will fill its place in the ground-floor gallery dedicated to the collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906. “The Blind Man,” a 1903 watercolor, depicts an eyeless figure, his head tilted skyward. The haunting composition was created during the artist’s blue period, “in which images of impoverished men and women can be interpreted as allegorical representations of the five senses,” notes the accompanying text.
Still, museum officials didn’t want to take a van Gogh out of circulation even briefly without offering a striking substitute. Those who venture to the second-floor gallery, filled with works by masters such as Degas, Monet, and Sargent, will find a different gem by the troubled (and supremely gifted) Dutch artist, on loan from the Van Gogh Museum while the self-portrait is away.
“Snow-Covered Field with a Harrow (after Millet),” painted in 1890, depicts a stark, frosted landscape. In the foreground rests an abandoned plow and a harrow; a ruined tower stands in the distance. Van Gogh’s skill with the brush stirs a silent movement in the frame. In the painting’s upper left corner, a flock of birds, perhaps startled by an unseen passerby, rises to meet the sky. Lower, the landscape’s sharp strokes make the ground “look like it’s undulating or moving on its own,” according to Cassandra Albinson, Margaret S. Winthrop Curator of European Art, who helped facilitate the recent loans.