The National Gallery of Canada's Vincent Van Gogh exhibit features 47 paintings pulled together from around the world that explore the Dutch artist's fascination with nature.

With more than 10,000 tickets sold online before the show opens, the Ottawa-based gallery expects its Van Gogh Up Close exhibit to be a blockbuster.

Van Gogh is one of the world's most popular artists and NGC director Marc Mayer says the exhibition has pre-sold more tickets than last year's show of French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.


Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890 by Vincent van Gogh. (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)

The allure is seeing a world of summer through the eyes of Vincent Van Gogh – through paintings he created in the final four years of his life while living in southern and northern France.

"Van Gogh was able to infuse his painting with an emotional aspect and I think he did that with the way he used his colour, the way he painted, how he presented his world with a very expressive brushstroke," guest curator Cornelia Homburg said in an interview with CBC News.

He spent part of that time in an insane asylum, and his story – of a tortured genius who never sold a painting in his lifetime – is familiar to most lovers of the Dutch artist.

But the exhibit, featuring works from public and private collections, shows halcyon subjects like fields of flowers and grass blowing in the wind.

"People can come here in the time of summer and they see all this celebration of nature and of summer and outside," Homburg said. "You have a feeling that you can partake in Van Gogh’s joy of nature."

A number of the paintings are leaving their home in Amsterdam for the first time, on loan from the Van Gogh Museum for this show, which is curated by the NGC and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Alongside the works by Van Gogh, the show features galleries of Japanese prints, 19th century photographs and other works inspired by nature to give context to Van Gogh’s time and interests.

Van Gogh Up Close opens Friday and runs to Sept. 3 at the National Gallery in Ottawa.


Wheat Field with Sheaves, 1888, by Vincent van Gogh. The Ottawa exhibit focuses on the Dutch artist's fascination with nature. (Honolulu Academy of Arts)

With files from CBC's Sandra Abma