Monday, March 16, 2009

For Sale in Maastricht

March brings The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) to Maastricht, a grand display of Old Masters, modern art, antiquities, you name it, not to mention hundreds of collectors, curators, dealers, and assorted art glitterati.

It also usually brings at least one van Gogh: last year, it was "Child with an Orange" from the Auvers period, this year it's "The Park of St. Paul's Hospital" (F640, JH1800), painted in October 1889 on the grounds of the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole at Saint-Rémy. This landscape, on offer from Dickinson for 25 million Euro, has been in a Swiss private collection since 1963 and has only been exhibited three times since that acquisition. Its provenance can be traced directly back to Johanna van Gogh-Bonger.

The painting is one of a series Vincent did in the hospital garden in the autumn, when he was fascinated by the changing colors of the landscape. The particular detail depicted here is part of the terraced garden lying in front of the former men's wing; today, this area of the hospital remains closed to the public because of the patients residing there. The painting includes one of Vincent's favorite subjects at Saint-Rémy, the cypress, which he considered a quintessentially Provençal motif. Also typical of the Saint-Rémy period is the somewhat subdued color palette compared to the Arles paintings, here with touches of red to suggest autumnal foliage.

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