• gerard van weyenbergh

A Van Gogh bought $ 60 in 1968, just sold for $ 17 million.

As its 33rd edition ends prematurely because of the Coronavirus epidemic, the Tefaf in Maastricht will have had some nice surprises in store. A London gallery has sold a painting by Vincent Van Gogh for almost 15 million euros.

Before the coronavirus made Tefaf Maastricht new collateral damage, the Dickinson gallery has just made an exceptional sale at the Dutch fair. The London gallery sold Paysanne in front of a cottage (1853-1890) for nearly 15 million euros to a private collector.

From collectors to collectors: a work by Van Gogh that remains in private hands

In the 1920s, this oil on canvas by Van Gogh resurfaced in an English collection. Since then, it has continued to disappear and then reappear on the art market, chaining the owners. In 1968, the Italian journalist Luigi Grosso came across it in an antique shop in Belsize Park in London and bought it for £ 45, for lack of certified authentication. To remedy this, the Italian appealed to art historian Alan Bowness, future director of the Tate . Together, they manage to have the painting signed " Vincent " authenticated , using X-rays. Indeed, under the Peasant woman in front of a cottage hides another work, the composition of which resembles a drawing by Van Gogh entitled The Plow . This discovery thus confirms the author of the painting; at the time, the Dutch painter often painted over some of his works.

In 1970, Luigi Grosso put Paysanne in

front of a cottage at Sotheby's in New York. The work is bought for almost 98,000 euros by the Hollywood film producer Joseph Levine. After two other sales at Sotheby's in New York (1983) and then in London (1985), the painting returned to the auction house in 2001, where it was sold for around 1.5 million euros and joined the collection of an American, the last owner dated.

Peasant woman in front of a Vincent Van Gogh cottage on the stand of the Dickinson gallery at the Tefaf.

© Dickinson gallery

A painting from the Dutch period rarely exhibited

Painted in July 1885 in Nuenen, in North Brabant (Netherlands), a Peasant woman in front of a thatched cottage was only shown once outside the auction rooms on the occasion of the exhibition The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, in 2010. However, the work bears witness to a key moment in Van Gogh's work: his Dutch period. Between 1881 and 1888, the artist produced many paintings which generally depict scenes of dark interiors with characters lit by a few rays of light, like his iconic Potato Eaters (1885).

In the summer of 1885, Van Gogh began to venture outside to paint rural landscapes. In Paysanne in front of a thatched cottage, a humble dwelling with a precarious balance occupies the center of the composition. At this time, the artist began to develop his thick touch, characteristic of his work. Here, Van Gogh brings a particular texture to thatched roofs, stretches the branches of the trees, and deepens the furrows of the muddy path, just as he will do later in his Provencal landscapes. The painter is also part of the history of Dutch and European paintings. By observing specific details of the walls of the thatched cottage, one can find the aesthetics of the traditional buildings painted by Vermeer or Pieter de Hooch. Representing a rural scene, a Peasant woman in front of a cottage also testifies to the influence of the painter Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), a major figure in the Barbizon School.

Jean-François Millet, Les Glaneuses, 1857, oil on canvas, 83.5 x 110 cm, Musée d'Orsay

Oil on canvas stands out, however, from other contemporary works by Van Gogh. When most of the paintings and drawings from the Dutch period by Van Gogh show the monotony of rural work through a palette of dark tones, Paysanne in front of a cottage further exposes the picturesque charms of country life on a bright day of summer, while being punctuated with small splashes of color. Of the twelve known paintings produced by Van Gogh in the summer of 1885, seven are now kept in public collections, such as the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Connaissance des arts