June 2010: Vincent van Gogh "Garden in Auvers"

Published on: 30 / 05 / 2010

Authors of this entry:
  • Magdalena Palica

Vincent van Gogh spent the last two months of his life in Auvers sur-Oise in tutelage of Dr. Paul Gachet, who was immortalized by the artist in many canvas paintings. This was very strenuous time for the painter, it has been estimated that at that time he had created one new painting every day.

Some critics and connoisseurs of van Gogh's oeuvre contest the authenticity of some compositions created at that time, calling into question whether it was possible that the painter would have executed more than seventy of them within seventy days preceding his suicide. The questions regard also one of the paintings that had once belonged to the collection of Leo Lewin in Wroclaw. The point is a canvas painting executed in July 1890 and depicting a garden.

The painting's authenticity has been frequently contested. As in 1992 its perennial owner Jacques Walter offered the canvas on auction in Paris, the French government regarded it indeed as a national weal of culture and forbade its exportation abroad, however renounced simultaneously the vested preacquisition rights. The questions on the canvas' authenticity emerged at the same time which resulted in drastic decrease of its price. Finally the painting was purchased for a reasonable price of 55 million francs (the originally estimated price had returned 200 million francs, i.e. circa 30 million $). The High Court of France required from the state, a compensation of 145 million francs that were supposed to be payed for the Walther's descendants. Four years later, as the descendants of the painting's following owner, banker Jean-Marc Vernes, attempted to offer the artwork on auction, the mass-media began to recontest its authenticity which resulted in gaining no purchaser willing to acquire it. In order to determine definitely, whether the painting was original, in 1999 the experts of „Reunion des Musées Nationaux” analysed it meticulously and regarded it beyond any doubt as an authentic work of an artist.

The canvas painting, depicting a garden, executed shortly before the artist's death is marked by phenomenal gentleness among other pictures created at that time (we can mention at least the pathetic "Ravens flying over a field of corn” currently housed in the Amsterdam's van Gogh Museum). The painting that had once been owned by Lewin depicts a path and flowerbeds lying on a slanting lawn, the landscape has been encosed with a boxwood hedge. The painting's soft pallette of colours, dominated by different shades of green and blue, has been enlivened only by a few light strokes of red. The golden rays of sun fall onto the alley that spreads within the bottom part of the picture, which having been painted in quasi-pointyllistic technique, seems to throb with light. Also the remaining surface of the canvas has been covered with paint laid in short and subtle brushstrokes (e.g. the groups of red flowers). The composition lacks the vigour and expression which were distinctive features of van Gogh's paintings. The delicacy of the decorative compositoin has been decreased in the upper part. The artist, while painting the shadiest part of his picture, depicting the hedge, seems to have been pervaded by flutterings, which could be most properly rendered with nervous and jerky strokes of brush, soaked in a black paint, though the painter was surrounded by flowers in a sunlit garden. A few days after the painting's execution van Gogh committed suicide.

Bibliography:

Stephan Koldehoff, Van Gogh: Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Köln 2003

Ingo F. Walther, Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh: sämtliche Gemälde, Köln 2006

Project co-financed by Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under Government Project – Civic Benefit Fund.
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