Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
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Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Etudes de personnages (recto); Etudes de femme et paysage au paysan (verso)

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Etudes de personnages (recto); Etudes de femme et paysage au paysan (verso)
inscribed by the artist 'rouge et vert' (upper left), 'bleu' (on the skirt of the seated woman, upper centre)
pencil on paper (recto and verso)
17¼ x 10¾ in. (44.3 x 27.3 cm.)
Drawn in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890
Dr Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, Auvers-sur-Oise, by whom acquired directly from the artist, 1890-1909.
Paul Gachet, Auvers-sur-Oise, by descent from the above.
Wildenstein Art Gallery, New York (no. R 1959). Mr. and Mrs. Harry M. Goldblatt, New York, by whom acquired in 1960.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's New York, 15 November 1984, lot 113.
Acquavella Galleries, New York, 1988.
Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London.
Anonymous sale; Christies, New York, 11 May 1989, lot 110.
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner.
Catalogue de la collection Paul Gachet, unpublished manuscript list of the Paul Gachet collection, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
J.B. de la Faille, L'oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh, Catalogue raisonné - Dessins - Aquarelles - Lithographies, vol. III, Paris & Brussels, 1928, no. 1652 (recto and verso illustrated pl. CCXLIV).
J.B. de la Faille, The Works on Vincent van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. F1652 (recto and verso illustrated p. 560 and 561).
J.B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Works on Paper, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I & II, San Francisco, 1992, no. 1652 (recto and verso illustrated vol. II, pl. CCXLIV).
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 1996, no. 2071 (recto) and 2074 (verso) (illustrated p. 473).
Caracas, Exposición de Dibujos del Renacimiento al Siglo XX, 1957, no. 50.
Santa Barbara, Museum of Art, Drawings of Five Centuries, May - July 1959, no. 124.
New York, Acquavella Galleries, XIX & XX Century Master Drawings and Watercolors, April - May 1988, no. 6.
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Lot Essay

The present sheet is the most articulate and complex of a series of drawings executed by Van Gogh in July 1890 in Auvers, a month before his death. This work is also the only one from this group (De La Faille, nos. 1589a, 1616, 1636, 1650) still in private hands, the others being housed today in the Rijksmuseum, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and two sheets in the Louvre.

The strength of the present work in its powerful, almost obsessive overcrowding of the sheet with incisive observations, independent vignettes, and studies for paintings or details of paintings that Van Gogh, overwhelmed by yet another violent crisis, could never begin. Each figure is traced with a greasy, heavy stroke of charcoal; the silhouettes are defined by a consistently sharp line, with even more trenchant passages in the girl's striped frock and the woman's dress. The artist fills every corner available, subdividing the space in small paintings - clearly singled-out by lightly traced frames, as in the upper centre of the sheet. The staccato definition of some figures' clothing is almost a rendition, through pencil, of Vincent's nervous linear brushstrokes typical of the Auvers paintings.

Although neither De La Faille (op. cit.) nor Hulsker (op. cit) relate any sketch of this sheet to a precise painting, it is possible to connect the profile of the girl in the upper left of the recto to the portraits of Adeline Ravoux, the innkeeper's daughter (F., no. 768 and 769) - whose long, curly hair is caught here bundled in a loose braid over her back. The various groupings of women and men seen from behind appear in many oils of June 1890, but the composition closest to these sketches is Femmes dans les champs (F., no. 819), where the artist indulged in the curve lines defining the womens' dresses, exactly as in the present drawing.

The provenance of this sheet is also significant. As most of the works executed in the final moths of his life, this sheet entered the collection of the infamous Doctor Gachet, Van Gogh's friend and mentor in the tragic months preceding his death.

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