How did the son of a Protestant preacher rise to become one of the most recognizable artists of all time? An upcoming exhibition titled, "Becoming Van Gogh" will show how the Dutch painter mastered his craft and tailored his personal style through ambition, technique and obsessive devotion.

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This unique exhibition -- the only one of its kind worldwide -- will bring together over 70 paintings and drawings illustrating the evolution of Van Gogh's artistic career, shown alongside the works of those who inspired him along the way. Incorporating loans from more than 60 public and private collections from around Europe and North America, the Denver Art Museum will tell the story of how Vincent became Van Gogh. More than any previous exhibition, "Becoming Van Gogh" will focus on Van Gogh's relationship with material, form and color, and how he evolved to master the personal style we know him for today. The exhibition is divided into three parts; the first shows Van Gogh's early exploration drawings and watercolors prior to his understanding of oil paints. Focusing on color theory, formal technique and composition, Van Gogh was devoted to learning the technical skills to translating an image from eye to canvas. In his early career Van Gogh looked up to Realist artists such as Jean-Francois Millet, and used art as a tool to depict the honor in every day labor and laborers.

Next we see Van Gogh's maturation as an artist in Paris from 1886 to 1888, where he begins to stray from technical norms in pursuit of a more artistic vision. Van Gogh no longer just wanted to convey what he saw, but what he felt. This eventful two year period makes up a large portion of the exhibition, coinciding with the final official Impressionism exhibition in Paris.

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The final aspect of the show brings together the artists who challenged, inspired and interacted with Van Gogh. Although we often see his works alongside his contemporaries on museum walls, we are rarely given the chance to watch a dialogue emerge between Van Gogh's emotive strokes and Seurat's optically precise colored points. Signac, Pissarro and Toulouse-Lautrec are among the artists whose work is represented as Van Gogh's inspirations, rivals and friends.

The exhibition brings together an astounding array of Van Gogh's iconic oeuvre. From Realism to Impressionism to Japanese Minimalism, we witness his love affair with the movements of the time and eventual departure to create a movement of his own. We see him bring honor and empathy to a beaten down pair of worker's boots, a heavenly glory to a dancing wheatfield, a driven yet calm Zen gaze in his self-portrait. Through his clouds that billow before your eyes and characters that tell stories with the curls in their beards, Van Gogh is a master of appealing to that part of each of us that longs for meaning in the little but glorious victories in mundane life.

"Becoming Van Gogh" will show at the Denver Art Museum from October 21, 2012 to January 20, 2013. Special dated and timed tickets will be required for admission to the galleries, so get there early!

See a preview of the exhibition below:

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  • Vincent van Gogh, Landscape under a stormy sky, 1889. Oil on canvas. Fondation Socindec, Courtesy Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny (Suisse).

  • Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, 1885. Lithograph on Japan paper. © Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid.

  • Vincent van Gogh, A Pair of Boots, 1887. Oil on canvas. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland. Photography by: Mitro Hood.

  • Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with Sheaves, 1888. Oil on canvas. Honolulu Academy of Arts, gift of Mrs. Richard A. Cooke and Family in memory of Richard A. Cooke.

  • Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1887. Oil on canvas. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

  • Vincent van Gogh, Courtesane: after Eisen, 1887. Oil on canvas. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

  • Vincent van Gogh, Basket with oranges, 1888. Oil on canvas. Private collection, courtesy of Heather James Fine Art.

  • Vincent van Gogh, Beach at Scheveningen, 1882. Transparent and opaque watercolor with charcoal on light brown paper. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Vincent Van Gogh, Grass and Butterflies, 1887. Oil on canvas. Private collection, image courtesy Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

  • Vincent van Gogh, Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Robert Treat Paine. Photograph © 2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

  • Vincent van Gogh, Road in Etten, 1881. Chalk, pencil, pastel, watercolor. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY.

  • Vincent van Gogh, Vase with gladioli and China asters, 1886. Oil on canvas. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

  • Vincent van Gogh, Venus, 1886. Chalk, charcoal. Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

  • Vincent van Gogh, The Blute-fin Mill, 1886. Oil on canvas. Museum de Fundatie, Heino/Wijhe and Zwolle, the Netherlands, Photo: Hans Westerink.

  • Vincent van Gogh, The Flowering Orchard, 1888. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ittleson Jr. Purchase Fund, 1956. Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY.

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