The painting Mount Tamalpais (1985) left the Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum in Beirut for the first time to be displayed in Colour as Language. Oil on canvas, 126.5 x 149 cm. © The Estate of Etel Adnan. The Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum, Beirut (donation of the artist, 2007).
An encounter with Van Gogh
The world in colour
Adnan believed that nature expressed itself most powerfully in colour, and she considered Van Gogh to be the first artist to dare to apply this in his art. Adnan said that Van Gogh paved the way for subsequent generations of artists. In the exhibition, Orchards in Blossom, View of Arles (1889) is displayed alongside Adnan’s Landscape (c.1990), an extraordinary loan from a private collection in Lebanon. The painting has never before been exhibited in America or Europe. Works such as California #9 (2003) from Museum Voorlinden and Calm Landscape (2013) from the Musée de l’Institut du monde arabe show Adnan’s favourite way of capturing nature.
‘I don’t know if you’ll understand that one can speak poetry just by arranging colours well.’ (Vincent van Gogh, 12 November 1888)
Mountains and the sun
It was only at the age of 87 that Adnan received international recognition for her art, at the Documenta in Kassel in 2012. When she died in Paris nine years later, on 14 November 2021, she left behind an oeuvre that is now read and exhibited all around the world. Colour as Language is the first and only exhibition in which works by Van Gogh and Adnan can be seen side by side. The exhibition is only on display in Amsterdam.
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