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Etel Adnan

In August 2021, the Van Gogh Museum was delighted to announce the first retrospective exhibition of Etel Adnan (1925-2021) to be held in the Netherlands: Colour as Language. 

Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Van Gogh Museum: ‘We have been working closely with Etel Adnan for some time now. The sad news recently reached us that Etel Adnan passed away at the age of 96. She was a remarkable woman who will be sorely missed. It is a great sadness that Etel Adnan will not be able to see the exhibition herself, but we are deeply honoured and thankful that we will be able to show the retrospective of her work in our museum next year.’

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Adnan only gained broad recognition with her paintings and drawings 15 years ago, but was already internationally-renowned for her literature and poetry. Adnan’s art is often based on the landscape.

Just like Vincent van Gogh, she uses a characteristic colour palette and painting style to convey the power of nature on the canvas. Colour as Language focuses on Adnan’s paintings, often simplified landscapes with intense colours and abstract forms, which are presented alongside several works by Van Gogh. The exhibition also features ‘leporellos’ – so-called harmonica books for which Adnan is renowned –, tapestries and literary work by the artist.

A retrospective of work by Adnan of this kind has never before been exhibited in the Netherlands. It is a true explosion of colours from a multifaceted artist who moved between different cultures and languages for nearly a century.

‘Colour as Language’, the first retrospective of work by Etel Adnan in the Netherlands, is on display at the Van Gogh Museum from 20 May to 4 September 2022, in the Exhibition Wing.

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