New Tate Britain exhibition shines light on Vincent van Gogh's London years

Britain's influence on Vincent van Gogh is explored for the first time in a major new exhibition.

'Van Gogh and Britain' looks at how the artist was inspired by British art, literature and culture throughout his career and how he in turn inspired British artists, from Walter Sickert to Francis Bacon.

The Tate Britain exhibiton represents the largest group of Van Gogh paintings shown in the UK for nearly a decade and includes over 45 works by the artist from public and private collections around the world, among them some of the Dutch master's most famous works, including 'Self-Portrait' and 'Starry Night on the Rhône'.

Arguably his most famous - and much copied - work, 'Sunflowers' is on loan from the National Gallery.

Van Gogh's Sunflowers will be on loan from the National Gallery. Credit: Tate Britain

As a young art dealer, Van Gogh lived in London between 1873 and 1876 and although he did not become a painter until four years after leaving the UK, they were crucial to his development as an artisit.

Carol Jacobi, the exibition's lead curator, told ITV News that when Van Gogh became an artist, "he looked back at the things he'd seen in London with a whole new interest".

"He couldn't afford paintings, he was very poor, but he could afford prints and he collected 2,000 prints of British pictures and they were very important to him when he was teaching himself to draw and to paint," Ms Jacobi said.

One of his favourite prints is one of Newgate prison, Van Gogh based his only painting of London, 'Prisoners Exercising', painted while the artist was in a psychiatric hospital in France.

The exhibition reveals Van Gogh’s enthusiasm for British artists John Constable and John Everett Millais as well as his love of British writers including Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Christina Rossetti.

Van Gogh's only painting of London was inspired by a print of Newgate jail. Credit: Tate Britain

"My whole life is aimed at making the things from everyday life that Dickens describes and these artists draw," he wrote in his first years as a struggling artist.

Tracing Van Gogh from his obscure years in London to the extraordinary fame he achieved in Britain in the 1950s, the exhibition shows how his art and life paved the way for modern British artists like Matthew Smith, Christopher Wood, David Bomberg and Francis Bacon.

Conservation work by the Tate for the exibition has also revealed other secrets.

The - what is now a dreary grey sky - in one of his last watercolours he painted, The Oise at Auvers, proved to be originally flaming pink.

Rosie Freemante, a paper conservator, Tate Britain told ITV News: "Vincent was very aware of the light sensitivity of some pigments, as were other artists of that time.

"But they still couldn't resist using them, so there's a certain poignancy about the picture being painted as one of his last pictures and the colour that informed the work is almost gone from the picture."

While the colour may have faded on this painting, Van Gogh's love of Britian continues to live on in the impression his short stay had on his art.