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Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Property from a Private American Collection 
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Figure Sketches (recto); Sketches of a young woman (verso)

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Figure Sketches (recto); Sketches of a young woman (verso)
inscribed 'rouge et vert' (upper left), inscribed again 'bleu' (upper center)
pencil on paper
17¼ x 10¾ in. (44.3 x 27.3 cm.)
Drawn in Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890
Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, Auvers-sur-Oise (acquired from the artist, 1890).
Paul Gachet, Auvers-sur-Oise (by descent from the above).
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York (by 1959).
Mr. and Mrs. Harry M. Goldblatt, New York (1960).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 15 November 1984, lot 113.
Acquavella Galleries, New York (1988).
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1989, lot 110.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 9 February 2006, lot 542.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Catalogue de la collection Paul Gachet, unpublished manuscript list of the Paul Gachet collection, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works on Vincent van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. F1652 (recto and illustrated, pp. 560-561).
J. Hulsker, The Complete van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, p. 473, no. 2071 (recto) and no. 2074 (verso) (illustrated).
A. Wofsy, ed., and J.-B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Works on Paper, Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1992, vol. I, no. 1652 (recto and verso illustrated vol. II, pl. CCXLIV).
A. Distel and S.A. Stein, Cézanne to Van Gogh. The Collection of Doctor Gachet, New York, 1999, p. 224.
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.

Lot Essay

The present sheet is the most articulate and complex of a series of multi-study drawings executed by van Gogh in July 1890 in Auvers, a month before his death (the others are Hulsker, nos. 2077-2079). This work is the only one from this group still in private hands; the others are housed today in the Louvre, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam.

The strength and character of the present work resides 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 center of the sheet. The staccato rendering of the clothing on some figures is almost a translation in pencil of Vincent's nervous linear brushstrokes seen in his 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, an innkeeper's daughter (H., no. 2035 and 2037)--whose long, curly hair is depicted 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 (H., no. 2112), where the artist treated the curved lines that define the womens' dresses exactly as in the present drawing.

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