The Van Gogh irises that brighten refrigerator magnets and wrap around coffee mugs are sweet. But they don’t compare to the real deal, unveiled Friday morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Vincent van Gogh’s 1890 “Irises, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence” is the third and final “mystery masterpiece” that the museum has presented as part of its centennial celebration. One of the Dutch artist’s most famous and appealing pictures, “Irises” is a big, exuberant bouquet — 3 feet tall and about 2 feet wide — of blue-violet blossoms and spiky green leaves in a gold vase by a sunny yellow wall.
On loan from the artist’s namesake museum in Amsterdam, the picture hangs in a special gallery near the museum’s entrance at 2400 3rd Av. S. It will be on view through Oct. 4. Admission to see it is free.
Applause and appreciative gasps greeted the painting when curtains parted to reveal it Friday morning. About 75 art enthusiasts, staff members and donors were on hand.
“Irises” follows Johannes Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” lent by Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum from January into May, and Raphael’s “Madonna of the Pinks” that London’s National Gallery loaned from May through Aug. 9.
Securing loans of such rarity and value requires diplomacy, horse-trading and respect built over decades of cooperation.
“These are favors being called in,” acknowledged Patrick Noon, the institute’s paintings curator, whose next show will travel to the National Gallery after it opens in Minneapolis this fall. “We probably have several paintings on loan to the Van Gogh museum right now, but it does show a level of international respect for the institution and our collection.”
One of the institute’s most popular paintings is Van Gogh’s 1889 “Olive Trees,” also currently on view at the museum. As part of the centennial festivities, the institute commissioned crop artist Stan Herd to create a large-scale version of “Olive Trees” in an Eagan meadow, where it can be seen from airplanes going to and from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The museum’s centennial celebration also has included special exhibitions of royal treasures from Austria’s Habsburg empire and a display of Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific manuscript known as the “Codex Leicester.”
Festivities continue with major exhibitions this fall. They include 175 gifts of Japanese and Korean art from the world-renowned collection of the late Mary Griggs Burke, a St. Paul-born, New York-based connoisseur. It runs Sept. 27 through May 8.
In October, the museum will open a landmark exhibit of European paintings, organized by Noon, exploring the legacy and influence of the revolutionary French painter Eugene Delacroix. The show will run Oct. 18-Jan. 10 before traveling to London.