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Manifestações Artísticas / 17/06/2020

Van Gogh and Gauguin, the letter that reveals the ins and outs of a unique artistic society

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The only letter signed by the Dutch painter and his French colleague has been bought for around 200,000 euros by the Amsterdam museum


The only known letter with the joint signature of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, and his Gallic colleague, Paul Gauguin, has been acquired at an auction held in France by the museum named after the former in Amsterdam. Van Gogh was very fond of correspondence, and his brother, Theo, received most of the 903 missives that remain, but this one is special. Written in French and dated 1888, it is addressed to another artist, Emile Bernard, and describes the intense period in which Vincent and Paul tried to create a pictorial community in the Yellow House, in Arles (France). And something else. Both reflect the feeling that his work will be understood by subsequent generations, because they want to "revive modern art." The museum does not indicate the price paid but it was around 200,000 euros.

“Gauguin interests me a lot as a human being. It is like a virginal being with animal instincts. In Gauguin, blood and sex exceed ambition, ”writes Van Gogh, who had invited his post-impressionist colleague to the French town of Arles, to work and share the endeavors of the artistic community that he wanted to form there.

They had been together for a week and The Yellow House (1888), captured in one of his famous paintings, must have been the headquarters and residence of the two of them, so Vincent decorated it with several of his works. Among them, some brilliant sunflowers that would later become famous. In the four rooms that he rented with the money that his brother Theo sent him, he lived with Gauguin for a few months, and tells how they are inspired. "We have been to brothels several times, and we may end up working there often," he writes. Gauguin intervenes at the end, and jokingly tells Emile Bernard the following: “Don't listen to Vincent. You already know that he is prone to admiration and it is easy for him to use these kinds of expressions. ”

In another passage, Van Gogh wonders about the thorny aspects of artistic collaboration, that is, whether or not it should be commercial. “I, who believe in the possibility of a great rebirth of art; that I believe that this new art will have its home in the tropics, I think that we only serve as intermediaries. And only a later generation will manage to live in peace, ”he writes. It is his way of telling Emile Bernard that the turbulence caused by the creative revolution he stars in will subside once completed, and other eyes will be able to understand it better. Hence, in a way, he accepts the misunderstanding with which his work was received at that time. Then he describes the two studies of fallen leaves on an avenue of poplars that he has painted, "and a third, of the avenue itself, all in yellow."

Gauguin was on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1887, and the idea of a generation's future in the tropics strikes him as "perfect as a painter, and I hope to return there when I have money," he says. According to the Van Gogh museum, "the letter to Bernard is also a dialogue between the two artists, knowing that other colleagues in his circle would read it." The meeting in Arles ended tragically, because Van Gogh and Gauguin had a fight, and Vincent cut his ear.

The letter was the property of a private collection and has been sold by Aristophil Collections at the Drouot auction house in Paris. now on, it will be part of the documentary collection of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, and will be exhibited October 9 in an exhibition dedicated to 40 of his best missives.

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