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Van Gogh Paintings Come To Life In Immersive Dali Museum Exhibit

Visitor stares up at large screens displaying Vincent Van Gogh's "Almond Blossom" painting.
Stephanie Colombini
Petals drift through the branches of Van Gogh's "Almond Blossom" painting in the immersive exhibit Van Gogh Alive at the Dali Museum.

The multimedia exhibit tells the story of Van Gogh's painting career, and how his style and state of mind changed along the way.

Classic paintings by Vincent Van Gogh come to life in a new exhibit opening at the Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday.

In Van Gogh Alive, large screens, a musical score and animation transform many of the renowned artist’s most famous works into fully immersive environments.

Petals fall from branches of his Japanese-inspired “Almond Blossom,” clouds slowly drift past “Cypresses” that Van Gogh painted as he struggled with mental illness and stars twinkle across the sky in the iconic “Starry Night.”

Stephanie Colombini
A series of Van Gogh's still life paintings dance across the exhibit space during one segment.

“It’s going to be dynamic and absolutely moving,” said Dali Museum director Hank Hine of the 40-minute multimedia experience, which follows Van Gogh’s career.

It only spanned about a decade, cut short in 1890 by the artist’s death by suicide, but during that time he created nearly 1,000 paintings.

Scenes from one of Van Gogh's Japanese-inspired paintings appear on screens in the Van Gogh Alive exhibit.
Stephanie Colombini
The exhibit notes Van Gogh's different influences, from French culture to Japanese artistry.

Van Gogh's impressionist works contrast Salvador Dali's surrealist images of melting clocks and distorted bodies in the permanent collection across the hall.

But Hine said the artists are connected in many ways.

They had troubled childhoods, with Hine calling them “replacement children,” as both were named after their deceased siblings.

Van Gogh and Dali also both enjoyed painting landscapes and sought to uncover what life was all about.

“With Van Gogh, he tries to use these vigorous brush strokes to emulate the energy that he perceives in the world, and these keyed-up colors, the yellows and oranges and incredibly dark blues,” explained Hine.

“In the same way, Dali tries to pry open what's really going on in the world by showing things that are impossible and yet are convincingly there.”

Vincent Van Gogh self portrait.
Stephanie Colombini
One of several Van Gogh self portraits that appear in this exhibit, which explores his personality as well as his art.

The touring exhibit was developed by Grande Exhibitions of Melbourne, Australia and is the latest example of the Dali blending technology with art, adding to the Dreams of Dali virtual reality experience already at the museum.

To improve safety during the coronavirus pandemic, the museum is requiring guests wear masks and reserve a time to enter Van Gogh Alive. The exhibit is included with admission and runs until April 11, 2021.

Slots for November are mostly booked but reservations are available for later this year. The museum is releasing times for next year in early December.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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