1889 The Field beyond the Window
2017 SOLD for $ 81M including premium
On June 18, Vincent paints La Nuit étoilée in which the stars are transformed into whirlwinds of fire. Anxious about the loss of control of his mental health, Vincent believes being appeased by the energy of his hallucination. Doctors fear another major crisis. They are right : it happens in mid-July.
Supervised by the doctors, Vincent does not paint during his crises. He takes his brushes again in the last days of August. The window of his room looks to the east. The sun rising above the wheat field is blinding and hypnotic, and also reveals the bright colors that constitute the soil. The colors are intermingled like swirls, scars and tongues of fire with an extreme violence.
This oil on canvas 50 x 65 cm is titled Laboureur dans un champ. The man, the horse and the plow in mid-distance against the light offer a new opus of the favorite theme of Vincent's career, a result of his lifelong empathy with the soil workers.
Healing through hard work that released his impulses was only an illusion but it produced unprecedented masterpieces. The next crisis comes in December.
Laboureur dans un champ will be sold as lot 28 A by Christie's in New York on November 13. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 Self Portrait without Beard by Van Gogh
1998 SOLD for $ 71.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The crisis is severe. Vincent does not go out any more and cannot resume his brushes before the end of August. Through the window, he sees a free man, the only free man who passes in his angle of vision, a peasant with his horse and his plow. Laboureur dans un champ, oil on canvas 50 x 65 cm, was sold for $ 81M including premium by Christie's on November 13, 2017.
Once again he feels a frantic urge to paint, as an antidote to his illness. Concerned also by the visible signs of madness on his face, he makes three self-portraits in bust, from the left side to hide the right ear.
On two of them, he is bearded. The background is decorated with swirls in his new signature style. On the portrait which is preserved in the Museum of Oslo, perhaps the earliest in this small series, the biased gaze is incontestably psychotic. About the painting that is currently in the Musée d'Orsay, he writes to Theo with a remarkable lucidity that his face is calm but that some distress remains in his gaze.
The other self-portrait is different. He painted it to make a birthday present to his mother, who turns 70 on September 10, 1889. To appear still young and healthy, the face is without beard, which does not mean that it corresponded to reality : a beardless man was not in the fashion of the time. He also wanted to make his caregivers and Theo believe that he felt cured.
This Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe, oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm, was sold for $ 71.5M including premium by Christie's on November 19, 1998 over a lower estimate of $ 20M. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 Irises by Van Gogh
1987 SOLD for $ 54M including premium by Sotheby's, sale canceled in 1990
narrated in 2020
The first feeling is very good. His pictorial creation is a lightning rod which will protect him against his illness. He sets to work with a new enthusiasm. The garden of the former monastery is beautiful in the middle of spring, and perhaps later he will be able to walk in the Alpilles which he sees on the horizon.
The iris flowerbed attracts his attention. He paints at the very beginning of his stay with an obvious pleasure an oil on canvas 74 x 93 cm, apparently without preparatory drawing. The irises occupy the foreground, in a varied and stylized arrangement which is certainly inspired by the processing of close-ups and angles in Japanese prints. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Vincent appreciated since Gauguin's stay at the Maison Jaune a few months earlier that the vividness of colors has become his best strength, and that flowers perfectly match it. The flowers of his irises are bright blue with the exception of one single white flower. This painting is a study of contrasts with the green leaves of the same plants, painted a little lighter than real, the orange flowers of the marigolds in the background and the ocher ground.
Theo is all the more amazed that happy impulses are very rare for Vincent in this tragic period. In September he exhibits this masterpiece alongside the Starry Night at the annual Salon of the Société des Artistes Indépendants.
Les Iris was sold for $ 54M including premium by Sotheby's on November 11, 1987, seven months after the record setting sale by Christie's of the Sunflowers by the same artist for the equivalent of $ 40M. It returned to the auction house for default of the winning bidder, an Australian businessman, and was acquired in 1990 by the J. Paul Getty Museum.
1889 Threats on Arles
2015 SOLD for $ 54M including premium
His mental health had always been fragile. The tension in his relationship with Gauguin rushed his delirious crises requiring his internment in psychiatric hospitals. His anguished questioning about the unknown cause of his illness worsens his condition. He cannot work during his crises.
On November 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé, oil on canvas 60 x 74 cm, lot 14 estimated $ 50M. This artwork was made in mid-April 1889 within a very short period of lull that allowed him again to paint outdoors. This insignificant countryside surrounding Arles cannot be located with more accuracy.
That new spring looked very different to him from that of the previous year. The flowery meadow that occupies the foreground is not welcoming although a little character is coming to pick flowers. It is well lit but not sunny. The trees are twisted off by the wind.
The clouds are processed in a thick impasto involving all shades of gray, with a great violence that anticipates the whirlpools in the starry sky of the following months. This tormented painting is already attesting the fatal drift of his genius into dementia.
1889 The Happiness of Outdoor Painting
2018 SOLD for $ 40M including premium
Laboureur dans un champ is a masterpiece of that new phase, composed from memory and from what he could see from the window. This oil on canvas 50 x 65 cm completed in September 2, 1889, was sold for $ 81M including premium by Christie's on November 13, 2017.
Vue de l'asile et de la chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole à Saint-Rémy, oil on canvas 45 x 60 cm, was painted in mid-October. It was sold by Christie's from the deceased estate of Elizabeth Taylor on February 7, 2012 for £ 10.1M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 5M, lot 12.
I discussed it in this column at that time, commenting it as follows : This is an overview of the buildings of the asylum, in a gentle stylized realism. The swirling textures of the sky and trees open the way to the masterpieces of Auvers, and in the whole lower part of the image the tangle of colors of the field is already foreshadowing the colorists of the next century..
The importance of this view in Vincent's art has been re-evaluated. It appears now as being the only landscape in that fall that Vincent had painted outdoors throughout, under the close surveillance of an attendant.
In his signature line previously used in Laboureur, Vincent offers in this view a much quieter rendering. Feeling that he was on the way to recover, he was happy with his great control of his brushstroke and delighted with the automnal colors.
It is estimated $ 35M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 15, lot 24 A. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 The Superb Fall
2019 SOLD for $ 40M including premium
La Nuit étoilée, oil on canvas painted in June 1889 at the asylum of St-Rémy, is unprecedented in the history of art. Vincent first wanted to paint the colors of the night. In order for them to be clearly visible, he oversized the Moon and the stars which have become swirls of colors.
La Nuit étoilée is also a landscape with the village of St-Rémy and the Alpilles. It is dominated in the foreground by an isolated floating tree, disproportionate and asymmetrical. With its longevity and its evergreen leaves, the cypress is the symbol of eternal life and the tree of the graveyards.
In October 1889 nature offers a satisfaction to Vincent : that autumn is superb. The artist paints the colors of the garden. With a texture of violent lines, the brushstroke has integrated the style of the Starry Night. In the foreground two or three thin trunks twist. The only vertical reference in this unbalanced universe is the tall cypress, in the distance, with the same asymmetry as the tree of the Starry Night.
A view in St. Paul's Hospital Garden, oil on canvas 67 x 52 cm, was sold for £ 9M including premium by Christie's on June 23, 2010.
Painted in vibrant colors, Trees in the Garden of the Asylum, oil on canvas 42 x 34 cm, will be sold as lot 15A by Christie's in New York on May 13. The March 27 press release announces an estimate in the region of $ 25M.
1889 The Sunflowers by Van Gogh
1987 SOLD for £ 24.7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Made in August, the four paintings are different one another by the number and arrangement of the flowers in the vase and by the color of the background. Gauguin begins his stay in October. He is dazzled : for him, the sunflower is in a way the signature of van Gogh's know-how.
The altercation followed by the mutilation of the ear takes place in December. The two artists will not see each other again, especially in prudence regarding Vincent's mental health.
In January 1889, when he is back in the Maison Jaune, Vincent works again on his sunflowers. He paints three replicas, copying with new colors the drawings of two paintings from August 1888. He also conceives a decorative triptych in which the wings are the same original paintings from August 1888 and the center La Berceuse, a portrait of Madame Roulin pulling the strings of a cradle.
Such fierceness on this theme is certainly obsessive. Vincent regretted Gauguin's departure and wanted to regain his admiration. No intervention by Gauguin in the design and execution of this series has been demonstrated.
Listed in the estate of van Gogh, one of the three replicas is bought by Schuffenecker in 1894. Its format is enlarged to 100 x 76 cm at an undetermined date by adding stripes of canvas, possibly to match the dimensions of a frame but more probably to obtain a less tight composition. The assumption that this painting is a copy made by Schuffenecker is unlikely.
This replica was listed by Christie's in their sale in London on March 30, 1987, with a pre-sale estimate in excess of US $ 16M which was enough to exceed by 50% the highest price recorded for any work of art at auction. The Sunflowers were sold to a Japanese bidder for £ 24.7M including premium worth US $ 40M at that time.
Please watch the video shared by Thames News including a footage in the auction room and the memorable hammering at £ 22.5M before fees. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 Vincent in the Fields
2017 SOLD for £ 24M including premium
Vincent's path to his artistic maturity is long and includes many copies from the masters. In 1889 his mental health becomes critical. For long periods in Arles or in the asylum at Saint-Rémy he can no longer go outdoors and has no more models. This interpreter of nature must now content himself with images. He undertakes a systematic copy of the two great series of wood engravings by Millet, the Quatre Heures du Jour and the ten Travaux des Champs.
The drawings made by Vincent are very similar to Millet's originals but the works are completely re-interpreted by the balance of the colors. The deep blue of the sky and the gold of the wheat fields are skilfully highlighted by the softer colors of the clothes.
The harvester by Millet was certainly one of Vincent's favorite themes. Seen from behind, this very tall peasant is bent to mow the corn. In the Christian tradition the scythe is the instrument of death, translated more positively by Vincent as a symbol of the position of the harvest in the inexorable cycle of life.
On June 27 in London, Christie's sells Le Moissonneur (d'après Millet), oil on canvas 43 x 24 cm painted by Vincent in September 1889, lot 6 estimated £ 12,5M. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
1889 Asylum and Sea
2014 SOLD 17 M£ including premium
He copies in his own style the pictures that Theo sends to him. His idea is pedagogic : assembling a wide variety of subjects in order to demonstrate the possibilities of figurative art.
In October, Vincent copies L'homme est en mer of Virginie Demont-Breton. His oil on canvas 66 x 51 cm is estimated £ 6M, lot 39 in the catalog of Sotheby's in London on February 5.
Daughter of the peasant painter Jules Breton, Virginie specialized in scenes of marine life. L'homme est en mer shows a languid young woman sitting by the fire with her baby, powerless against the dangers faced by her husband.
Vincent accurately reflects the composition but is not simply a follower of Demont-Breton. The colors are gorgeous, reinforced by the lines typical of his style through which his paintings go beyond the emotional load of impressionists and pointillists.
The outside world is prohibited to the enclosed artist. The parallel between his own distress and the anguish of the woman is probably a psychological reason that guided his choice. The reference to the sea symbolizes both freedom and danger, and the sleeping baby is leading to the future.
POST SALE COMMENT
This surprising painting by Van Gogh inspired by Demont-Breton was sold for £ 17M including premium.
The image is shared by Wikimedia :
1889 Cassis by Signac
2007 SOLD for $ 14M including premium by Christie's
1889 Pierreuse by Lautrec
2020 SOLD for $ 9.1M including premium by Christie's
narrated post sale in 2020
Two allegorical works painted in 1889 deal with the extreme attitudes of these young adults, wisdom and bad life. The formats are similar but the technique is different. He recreates the atmosphere of the chansons réalistes of his friend Aristide Bruant, who makes his fortune by titillating the bourgeois in his cabaret Le Mirliton. Both artworks are signed HT Lautrec, hiding the aristocratic origin of the artist.
La Liseuse, peinture à l'essence on board 68 x 61 cm, was sold for £ 5.6M including premium by Sotheby's on June 22, 2011, lot 19. Hélène is studious, undisturbed in her reading.
Pierreuse, oil on canvas 72 x 48 cm, was sold for $ 9.1M including premium by Christie's on December 2, 2020 from a lower estimate of $ 3M, lot 37.
Carmen "la Rousse" looks at something off-screen, attentively, without paying attention to the strand of hair that runs down her cheek. The title gives the key : in the language of Montmartre, the pierreuse was the prostitute of the lowest rank who solicits while walking in the streets. This painting was originally owned by Bruant and much later by Sacha Guitry.
#AuctionUpdate 'Pierreuse', featuring one of #ToulouseLautrec's favorite models, the auburn-haired gamine, Carmen Gaumin. sold for USD 9,062,000, three times its low estimate, after an 8 minute bidding battle https://t.co/hqIazv277F pic.twitter.com/BWUStAce9c— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 2, 2020
1889 Happy Children of Albert Anker
2011 SOLD 7.4 MCHF including premium
He has no equal for portraits of children and of elderly people because he never falls into the sentimentality of a Bouguereau, for example. And even if the clothes are old-fashioned, the art of Anker has a timeless appeal.
The children, always serious, learn to become young Swiss. The theme of the baby and the older sister is one of his favorites. The day before yesterday, November 28, Sotheby's sold CHF 6.1 million including premium in Zurich an oil on canvas of 1885, 54 x 70 cm. The baby sleeps in his cradle in the garden. Sister, attentive, watches quietly while knitting.
On December 9 in Zurich, Koller sells an oil on canvas, 66 x 46 cm, painted circa 1889, estimated CHF 1.5 million. Baby is standing on the desk, trying to stay straight. The sister watches, with an enveloping movement of the arms to prevent a fall.
A young schoolgirl of 1879, 65 x 50 cm, busy writing on her slate board, had been sold CHF 5.6 million including premium by Beurret & Bailly in Basel on June 18, a price quite remarkable as it was the opening sale of this auction house.
POST SALE COMMENT
Anker moves permanently among the top masters of Swiss art. This very nice painting has earned an exceptional price, CHF 7.4 million including premium.
Shared by Wikimedia :