WHAT: "Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
WHEN: Oct. 18-Dec. 31
HOW MUCH: $15.
WHY GO: Vincent van Gogh might be best known for his vivid paintings with their bold and unconventional use of color, but the artist's black-and-white drawings are considered among his finest and most dramatic creations. Making up more than half of the artist's lifetime output, van Gogh's drawings have been largely ignored by the general public. Until now.
The Met exhibit, composed of 113 works selected from public and private collections worldwide and Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, is the first in the United States to focus exclusively on his drawings. While chronicling van Gogh's evolution from draftsman to master painter, the exhibit sets out to prove that his drawings are great works of art in their own right and that he should be regarded as one of the best practitioners of the trade.
Believing that drawing is "the root of everything," van Gogh began putting pencil to paper at the outset of his career in 1880, knowing it was necessary to master black and white before attempting to work in color. It was also a matter of economics -- the paper and ink he purchased at nearby shops were cheap, and he created his own pens from locally grown reeds.
Susan Stein, a Met museum curator, is not speaking in hyperbole when she classified the exhibit as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for art lovers. Most of these drawings are light sensitive and, for conservation reasons, may not be shown in public again for many, many years.
DON'T MISS . . . what van Gogh considered to be his greatest achievement as a draftsman, a series of six drawings he composed atop Montmajour near Arles. The sextet, which are being reunited specially for the exhibit, features panoramic vistas of the countryside and windblown trees scattered among rocky mountain slopes. Also, a rare self-portrait, only one of two such drawings known to exist, makes up a number of portraits and figure studies on view. And two versions of the same drawing, titled "Winter Garden," offer large-scale views of the garden at his father's vicarage and treat the subject in contrasting horizontal and vertical formats.
EXTRAS: The Met will run a corresponding exhibit featuring 70 drawings that inspired van Gogh. "In Line With Van Gogh" includes prints and drawings by Rembrandt, Daumier, Millet, Hokusai and Hiroshige, as well as contemporaries and followers Signac, Seurat, Matisse and Picasso . . . A second group of drawings that van Gogh admired comprises another concurrent exhibit, "From Clouet to Seurat: French Drawings From the British Museum." It contains about 100 w,orks including drawings by Pissarro, Degas, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec, friends of van Gogh's during his time in Paris from 1886 to 1888 . . . On Nov. 20, the Met will have a seriesof programs devoted to the exhibit, including a 10 a.m. screening of "In a Brilliant Light: Van Gogh in Arles," a documentary that chronicles the artist's life, and lectures by Van Gogh Museum research curator Leo Jansen (3 p.m.) and Met curator Colta Ives (4 p.m.). The film will also be screened Dec. 17. The programs are free with museum admission.
EATS: In honor of van Gogh's Dutch heritage and love of Provence, where he did much of his memorable work, the Met's Petrie Court Cafe will serve a Provencal lunch menu and a Dutch-inspired afternoon tea. On weekends, the cafe dishes out a Provencal prix-fixe dinner menu ($29) with wine pairings. All Met restaurants and cafes will offer van Gogh-inspired desserts.
SLEEPS: Obviously, New York offers a plethora of hotels that range in style, price and quality. But when judging purely on proximity, visitors can go for the ultimate in luxury at the Carlyle (35 E. 76th St., 212-744-1600, www.thecarlyle.com; doubles from $650 a night) or the Hotel Plaza Athenee (37 E. 64th St., 800-447-8800, www.plaza-athenee.com; from $680).
Those wanting to stay at a slightly more economical property still within walking distance from the Met should try the Franklin Hotel (164 E. 87th St., 800-607-4009, www.franklinhotel.com; from $235).
INFO: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd Street. Details: 212-535-7710, www.metmuseum.org.
-- John Maynard