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

Uitzicht over Den Haag met de Nieuwe Kerk (View of The Hague with Nieuwe Kerk)

Details
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Uitzicht over Den Haag met de Nieuwe Kerk (View of The Hague with Nieuwe Kerk)
signed ‘Vincent’ (lower left)
watercolor, gouache and pen and brown ink on paper
10 3/8 x 14 5/8 in. (26.2 x 37.1 cm.)
Executed in The Hague in March 1882.
Provenance
Anon. sale, Veduehuis, The Hague, 22 June 1960.
Willem Brinkman, Schipluiden, The Netherlands (acquired at the above sale, and until at least 1970).
Anon. sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 21 April 1971, lot 23.
Kunsthandel Ivo Bouwman, The Hague (by 2002).
Eric Brecher, Sydney (by 2005).
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
Haagsch Dagblad, 7 July 1960 (illustrated).
C. Wentinck, "Veilingen," in Elseviers Weekblad, 9 July 1960 (illustrated).
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. SD 1680 (illustrated).
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, p. 32, no. 97 (illustrated).
J.-B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Works on Paper, Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1992, vol. I, p. 448, no. 1680 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. CCXLVI).
J. Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 32, no. 97 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Frankfurt Kunstverein, Vincent van Gogh: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, April-June 1970, pp. 67-68, no. 10 (dated 1882-1883 and titled Townscape–The Hague).
Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Vincent van Gogh: Drawings, March-July 1990, p. 114, no. 63 (illustrated in color; dated 1882-1883).
Treviso, Casa dei Carraresi, L'impressionismo e l'eta' di Van Gogh, November 2002-March 2003, pp. 403 and 459, no. 121 (illustrated in color, p. 403).
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, January-February 2005 (on loan).
Poughkeepsie, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, March 2005 (on loan).

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Lot Essay

Painted at a crucial juncture in Vincent van Gogh’s early development as an artist, Uitzicht over Den Haag met de Nieuwe Kerk (View of the Hague with Nieuwe Kerk) is among the artist’s earliest explorations of color in his depictions of the landscape. Executed in an array of soft, velvety tones, the composition demonstrates the great leaps that were occurring in Van Gogh’s developing technique, as he feverishly pursued his dream of becoming a professional artist. At this time Van Gogh was living on the outskirts of the Hague, in a small studio with a large south-facing window. His letters from the period reveal his enthusiasm for the city and excitement as he embarked upon bold new experiments in drawing and painting. “You can imagine how stimulated I feel,” he wrote to his brother Theo shortly after his arrival in late December 1881. “What will my work be like in a year? […] what fills my head and heart must be expressed in drawings or paintings” (Letter 194, in L. Jansen, H. Luijten and N. Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, vol. 2, London, 2009, pp. 12-13).
Van Gogh believed that watercolor was an essential technique to master on his route to becoming a true painter. Indeed, already in 1881, the artist informed Theo of his interest in the medium: “I bought Cassagne’s Traité dAquarelle and I am studying it; even if I should not make any watercolors, I shall probably find many things in it, for instance, about sepia and ink” (Letter 168, in ibid., vol. 1, p. 274). That same year, Van Gogh tried his hand at working in watercolor: in early December he visited his cousin Anton Mauve during a trip to The Hague, informing Theo of having worked on two paintings during the visit. A skilled watercolorist himself, Mauve was instrumental in initiating Van Gogh to the medium. “Theo,” he rejoiced, “I’ve been so enlightened by Mauve as regards the mysteries of the palette and painting in watercolor. And that will repay the 90 guilders this trip has cost” (Letter 192, in ibid., p. 332). The young artist was immediately enthralled by the new medium, understanding its potential for capturing wide stretches of landscapes: “How marvelous watercolor is for expressing space and airiness, allowing the figure to be part of the atmosphere and life to enter it” (Letter 192, in ibid., p. 332).
However, Van Gogh remained focused on drawing through the opening months of 1882, determined to educate himself properly in the rules of perspective and anatomy before moving onto the challenge of color. When, in February 1882, Mr. Tersteeg—who had been Van Gogh’s boss at the gallery Goupil & Cie years before—had asked him to execute some watercolors, the artist lamented to his brother: “You understand that I’m extremely short of money. Mr. Tersteeg bought a little drawing from me for 10 guilders, which helped me to get through the week. But he wants them small and only in watercolor and I can’t do that yet…” (Letter 205, in ibid., vol. 2, p. 29). In March, the artist was still convinced that working in watercolor was premature: “the main reason I can’t make watercolors straightaway is that I must draw more seriously and pay attention to proportion and perspective” (Letter 210, in ibid., p. 36). Nevertheless, by the end of the month he had decided his drawings had progressed enough to warrant a foray into watercolor, leading him to embark upon Uitzicht over Den Haag met de Nieuwe Kerk.
Unlike many of his contemporaries working in The Hague, Van Gogh chose not to portray the city’s spacious and elegant districts during his time there, but rather the urban realities of the cityscape, often choosing views of the winding side streets and haphazard clusters of buildings that made up its working class neighborhoods. This landscape was, for Van Gogh, a visual feast, filled with abundantly varied shapes and intriguing motifs, collected during his many wanderings through this part of the city. Indeed, while Uitzicht over Den Haag met de Nieuwe Kerk features the distinctive profile of the seventeenth century Nieuwe Kerk in the distance, the view is taken from the edge of the city, where the rolling green fields meet the rapidly increasing urban sprawl. Here, small cottages crowd together, their bright red roofs jumbled almost on top of one another, while a pair of chimneys to the right of the composition emit plumes of smoke that stream across the skyline. Though Van Gogh had previously lamented the impacts of the industrial revolution, in his views of The Hague from this period, he appears to accept such industrialization of the landscape as a fact of modern life.

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