Jan Robert Leegte's Compressed Landscapes at the Van Goghmuseum

Jan Robert Leegte's Compressed Landscapes at the Van Goghmuseum

Jan Robert Leegte's Compressed Landscapes at the Van Goghmuseum

6 May 2021 - As of today, the Van Gogh Museum presents Jan Robert Leegte’s website series Compressed Landscapes. Fully accessible to the public, the series – comprising five works inspired by Vincent van Gogh – is the ideal form of 'lockdown art'. For now, Compressed Landscapes can be seen online (here), but as soon as museums are allowed to reopen their doors to the public, you will also be able to enjoy the series at the Van Gogh Museum.

Leegte x Van Gogh

Jan Robert Leegte (1973) has been making Internet art in the form of websites since the 1990s. In 2002, he began introducing digital materials in the physical exhibition space, to create a connection between the online art world and the world of museums and art galleries. 

For Compressed Landscapes Leegte drew inspiration from the methods of 19th-century artists such as Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries. With this series, Leegte attempts to breathe new life into 19th-century artists’ plein air painting: where the latter went outdoors to paint landscapes using brushes, Leegte applies algorithms to the wilderness of the Internet. These algorithms visit online photo databases such as Flickr, and randomly select images on the basis of search terms such as 'mountains', 'forests' or 'sunset'. Once such images have been found, the algorithm compresses them into tiny files. The result of this computer process are digital impressionistic landscapes.

As the algorithm is constantly searching for images, the result is five ever-changing and therefore always unique Internet artworks of forests, sunsets, mountain sceneries, lunar skies and general landscapes, which can be viewed via unchangeable URLs:


Digital Art

The website series is perfectly suited to an online visit beyond the walls of the museum. In this video, Jan Robert Leegte explains why everyone should view his work either from home or at the museum: '’The Compressed Landscapes series is on display at the Van Gogh Museum so that people can view the works in a historical context, surrounded by paintings from a different era. Thus, visitors can take their time enjoying the works in the way they would contemporary paintings. But Internet art can also be seen in the wild from home. The fact that Compressed Landscapes can be visited in many different ways makes it really special, that's the strength of this work.' 

At the Van Gogh Museum

As of today, all five artworks of the website series are accessible online. And as soon as museums in the Netherlands will reopen, they will also be on display at the end of the permanent collection on the third floor of the Van Gogh Museum. There, Leegte's modern landscapes create a special dialogue with landscape paintings such as Wheat Field with Partridge and Autumn Day, which are on display on the same floor.

Jan Robert Leegte's presentation is the latest in the series Van Gogh Inspires. In this series, the Van Gogh Museum puts work by modern and contemporary artists on display, showing how Van Gogh’s work has inspired many generations of artists. Previously, the museum displayed work by artists including Jean-Luc Mylayne, Steven Aalders, Matthew Day Jackson, Zeng Fanzhi, John Chamberlain and Peter Doig.

Publication date: 6 Feb '24