Anyone visiting New York this summer with plans to see Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art will need to reroute about a mile and half north. From May 22 to August 27, 2023, the Dutch painter’s 1889 masterpiece will reside at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its Van Gogh’s Cypresses exhibit. The first show to focus on the artist’s fascination with the swirling evergreens, Van Gogh’s Cypresses includes some 40 other paintings, sketches, and letters from the Met as well as other public and private collections that have never been exhibited together—or even lent out—before now.
“Because one of our major masterpieces, The Wheat Field with Cypresses from the Annenberg Collection, cannot leave the Met’s premises . . . it’s a show that can only happen here at the Met,” said Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at a media preview on May 15.
The exhibit spans three galleries, organized chronologically, that follow the arc of Van Gogh’s progressive exploration of cypress trees during his time in the south of France, where he spent most of the last two years of his life. Van Gogh left Paris in February 1888, to exchange the frantic pace of city life for the sun and countryside of Provence. Here, he departed from painting mostly still lifes and city scenes to focus on landscapes, including many of the paintings in this exhibit.
“To an extent that’s gone unrecognized, Van Gogh brought his trademark ambition, determination, and a great degree of consideration and reconsideration to giving signature form to the storied cypresses,” said Susan Alyson Stein, the Met’s curator of 19th-century European paintings. “The flame-like trees,” a native species dominating the countryside of Provence, “successively sparked, fueled, and stoked his imagination from the time he found himself in Arles until he checked out of the asylum [at Saint-Rémy] two years later.” After leaving Saint-Rémy in May 1890, Van Gogh ended his own life that July in a village outside of Paris.
Highlights of this exhibit include the side-by-side juxtaposition of The Starry Night (1889) to its daytime counterpart—the Met’s aforementioned Wheat Field with Cypresses (1889). This is the first time these two have been exhibited alongside each other since 1901, when they were shown in a retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Paris.
Other standout moments include Country Road in Provence by Night (1890), on loan from the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, and A Wheatfield, with Cypresses (1889), on loan from the National Gallery, London. Visitors can also look forward to seeing Van Gogh’s artistic process through a series of letters with sketches on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
“The cypresses still preoccupy me,” he wrote, in one such letter to his brother Theo dated June 25, 1889. “I’d like to do something with them like the canvases of the sunflowers because it astonishes me that no one has yet done them as I see them.”
How to plan your visit to “Van Gogh’s Cypresses”
Van Gogh’s Cypresses is open May 22 through August 27, 2023, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Entrance to the exhibit is free with museum admission and no advanced or timed tickets are required. However, visitors must join a virtual queue via QR code once inside the Met since access to the exhibit is first come, first served and is subject to capacity limitations in the gallery. The show is located in Exhibition Gallery 199, which visitors can access via the Greek and Roman Art wing, directly to the left of the Great Hall.
The museum is open daily (except Wednesdays) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission to the Met is $30 for adults, $22 for seniors 65+, and $17 for students. Children under 12 are free. New York State residents (as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students) can enter the museum on a “pay what you wish” basis.
The closest subway station to the Met is the 86th Street stop on the 4/5/6 line. If you’re planning a trip to New York around this exhibit, the Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the Met and has been welcoming guests like John F. Kennedy and Ingrid Bergman to the Upper East Side since 1930. Even if you’re staying somewhere more affordable, it’s worth popping into its iconic Bemelmans Bar after the Met to sip martinis and enjoy the murals of another famous European artist, Ludwig Bemelmans, who wrote and illustrated the Madeline books.
Lyndsey Matthews Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.