Beyond Van Gogh – The Immersive Experience being presented at Hartford’s Connecticut Convention Center through October 2 is an encounter with fine art unique in its content and scope.  Audiences have never experienced art in this way before – the “immersive” designation is quite accurate.  Over 300 of Van Gogh’s paintings appear in the 360 degree projections that completely fill the four walls of the vast hall and are accented on three centrally positioned kiosks.  Rapt attendees pivot as the screens are refreshed with good reason.  It’s important to make sure that the full effect of being surrounded by legendary art is not missed.

For many, the notion of seeing world-renowned paintings has been limited to periodic visits to museums, paging through over-sized art books or scrolling through websites on a computer screen.  This experience is different … very different.  Small canvases are suddenly projected in heroic proportion.  Through detailed application of the artistry of digital manipulation, paintings seem to come alive.  Birds fly.  Waves move on otherwise placid seas.  Flowers grow.  Even the floor is alive with images and color.

Vincent Van Gogh led a short, troubled life.  Historic consensus is that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound when just 37 years old.  Burdened from childhood with a deeply depressed personality, Van Gogh seemed to move constantly through his young life, never finding a place or a pursuit that would calm his troubled soul.  When he finally settled on pursuing the life of a painter, his poor health and crushing poverty both pushed him to spend all his energy refining his monstrous talent … and to alienate him from those around him.  It was only his younger brother Theo who, with the benefit of his burgeoning career as an art dealer, was able to both sustain him and encourage him through his darkest moments.

The result of this troubled, tempestuous career was a portfolio of deeply engaging paintings from portraits to still life glimpses to landscapes of the fields and hillsides of Southern France.  The producers of Beyond Van Gogh have researched and meticulously photographed over 300 of these masterworks, capturing them on 4 Trillion content pixels.  After a brief stroll through 22 text filled panels that provide the basic information about Van Gogh’s life, his challenges and the trajectory that took him to the heights of artistic expression, viewers step into the room where color, light, detailed images of the artist’s work and music take over.

The sound design for Beyond Van Gogh enhances the experience.  One can expect that Don McLean’s tribute, “Vincent” will fill the room when “Starry Night” appears on the screens.  George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” will also appear … both with orchestrations that blend into the “new age” soundtrack.  There are a few brief narrative passages, most read by a young girl whose presentation captures both the whimsy and the sadness of Van Gogh’s work.  In his own words, taken from one of his many letters to his brother, Van Gogh declared “… I am something.  I can do something.”  There can be little doubt of that affirmation after becoming fully immersed in his magical work.

The production company for Beyond Van Gogh has created a way of placing audience members in the middle of a completely enveloping experience.  Dozens of cities have hosted the production with several dozen in the queue to make Van Gogh’s art a visceral experience shared worldwide.  Making the effort to travel to Hartford (the Interstates easily connect with convention center parking) is truly worth the investment.  Tickets are timed – one selects the day, date and hour most convenient – with “Basic Timed Entry” tickets for adults costing $40.  By timing the tickets, audience size is managed so that there is no need to elbow for position within the presentation.  There is, of course, the mandatory “museum store” through which everyone must exit when they have become saturated with Van Gogh’s incredible works.  Full information and ticket acquisition are handled at the event website,