When we think of Vincent van Gogh, we paint him with dark, melancholic tones. We know him as the man who battled with mental health, or who sold only one painting in his lifetime.
But underneath these associations, the Dutch Master persisted to change his destiny. It turned out to be a vibrant artistic career that spanned 10 years.
Van Gogh’s Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls will be sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction sales on 9 October. Its estimated value is between US$9 and 12.85 million dollars (HK$70,000,000 – 100,000,000).
This is the first time that Vincent van Gogh’s artwork is sold at an auction sale in Asia.
Vincent Van Gogh | Signed Vincent (lower right)
Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls
Created in Summer 1886
Oil on canvas
51.2 x 38.8 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):
- Theodore Duret
- Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired directly from the above in March 1912)
- Galerie Bernheim-Jeune
- Paris Alden Brooks, acquired in 1928
- Elwin Litchfield Phillips Jr., Jacksonville, Florida (acquired directly from the above sale and sold by the Estate: Sotheby’s, New York, 11 May 1999, Lot 129)
- Private Collection, United States (acquired directly from the above sale and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 14 November 2016, Lot 8, Sold at US$5,862,500)
- Important Private Collection (acquired directly from the above sale)
Estimated Price: US$9,000,000 – 12,854,540
Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters (1885)
A New Beginning
Vincent van Gogh was initially influenced by the Dutch Old Masters and the Hague School. These artistic styles used a darker palette of earthy tones and browns.
At 27, Vincent wrote to his younger brother, Theo, stating that he wanted a change in his life. He had spent his youth in the pursuit of a rewarding vocation, but every one of his attempts were met with failure.
Impressionism in Paris was the artistic trend of late 19th century Europe. Theo encouraged Vincent to travel to the French capital in the pursuit of a better recognition.
Two years in Paris from 1886 to 1888 proved to be a key turning point that catapulted the young artist’s artistic development.
Pissarro's Boulevard Montmartre at Night (1897)
“The Festival of Colours”
In the City of Light, Vincent met many a daring circle of Impressionist artists, such as Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Although Van Gogh did not always agree with his contemporaries, he was willing to discuss with them in the cafes of Montmartre.
He even enrolled in some classes under the tutulage of established artist, Fernand Cormon. It was in these moments that Van Gogh quickly absorbed and adapted new creative techniques that would later define his own style – colour palette, light and application of paint.
Theo was seeing progress with his elder brother, who was embracing the city with its new opportunities and a newly found independence.
"He is also more cheerful than in the past and people like him here. Hardly a day passes that he is not asked to go to the studios of well-known painters, or they come to see him. If we are to keep it up, I think his difficult times are over and he will be able to make it by himself," wrote Theo to his mother in summer 1886.
Apart from being profoundly inspired by the Impressionists, Van Gogh was also influenced by ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints. These types of artworks and their influences were called Japonaiserie to Van Gogh, and were very popular in Paris during the late 19th century.
Van Gogh's The Courtesan (1887, after Eisen)
Van Gogh's Flowering Plum Tree (1887, after Hiroshige)
He admired the Japanese artworks' bold designs, intense colours, as well as the elegant and simple lines. These influences can also be found in the artist’s engagement with an Asian aesthetic for flowers and nature.
“You will see that by making a habit of looking at Japanese pictures you will come to love to make up bouquets and do things with flowers all the more,” once said Vincent to Theo.
Van Gogh's Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls (1886)
The central right section of van Gogh's Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls (1886)
Van Gogh's Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls is a painting featuring red gladioli flowers, produced in summer 1886. It was one of more than 35 flower still-life artworks that he painted in Paris during that same summer.
It depicts lofty flower spikes flaring open from a small vase and flowering buds dominate the upper parts of the oeuvre. The sword-lillies’ nature allowed the Dutch Master to experiment with triangular-structured compositions and a looser style of brushwork.
Van Gogh experimented with variations of red and united the subject with its backdrop through a single primary colour. The bright, quivering petals are juxtaposed with dark shadows cast on the wall and table, adding to a sense of theatre.
The present work is distinguished by important early provenance. The first known owner of the present lot was the renowned French journalist and art critic during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Theodore Duret. It then passed through different owners over a period of more than 100 years.
A notable change of ownership was during Sotheby’s New York auctions in 2016, when the painting was sold for US$5.86 million dollars.
Van Gogh's Still Life: Vase with Gladioli and Lilacs (1886)
Van Gogh's Nature Morte, Vase aux Marguerites et Coquelicots (1890)
Van Gogh's artworks during summer 1886 have also been sold. Still Life: Vase with Gladioli and Lilacs is one example, and fetched £2.24 million pounds in June 2006.
Another flower still-life to appear in the auction was Nature Morte, Vase aux Marguerites et Coquelicots (1890). It sold for US$61.7 million dollars in Sotheby’s New York in November 2014.
Van Gogh's Nature Morte: Vase aux Glaïeuls (1886) will auctioned in the upcoming Sotheby's sale. Its estimated value is between US$9 and 12.85 million dollars (HK$70,000,000 – 100,000,000).
The most expensive Western painting sold in Asia was Basquiat's Warrior (1982), which sold for US$323.6 million dollars in March 2021. David Hockney's 30 Sunflowers (1996) sold for US$114.8 million dollars in July 2020, ranking as the second most expensive Western painting sold in Asia.
Auction House: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Date: 9 October 2021
Sale: Modern Art Evening Sale