Reed pen and graphite on paper
Dimensions of the sheet
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Signed lower left 'Vincent' (faded)
Besides the usual fading of the purple ink the work comes in good condition
Harold Hecht & Gloria Hecht Dresser, LA – see detailed description for more information; 'The Plain of La Crau' is not only unique because of its beauty, but also because of the rare and complete provenance. It is the only drawing of the first Montmajour series that is not in possession of a museum
<p>Vincent van Gogh drew 'The Plain of La Crau' in May 1888 during his first few month of his stay in Arles, a period that is known to be his most productive. The sheet is one of seven drawings that Vincent sent his brother Theo at the end of May, and they are today known as the first Montmajour Series. All of them, besides the work at hand, are today in museums.
Vincent van Gogh described his fascination with the region around Arles in a letter to his brother Theo: 'L’opposition de l’avant plan sauvage & romantique – et les perspectives lointaines larges et tranquilles à lignes horizontales se degradant jusqu’à la chaine des Alpines (…). Cette opposition est très pittoresque.'<em> (The contrast between the wild and romantic foreground — and the broad, tranquil distant prospects with their horizontal lines, shading off until they reach the chain of the Alpilles (…). This contrast is very picturesque.) </em>Thanks to the titles he has given nearly all of them, one gets the impression that he had wanted to give his brother Theo an overall impression of the surrounding landscape not only in a written but also in an illustrated manner.
Van Gogh’s drawings from this time were strongly influenced by the Japanese woodcuts, known as ukiyo-e, that he had gotten to know during his time in Paris. One of the reasons Van Gogh moved to Arles was his hope to experience a greater closeness to Japan if he moved further south – and apparently he felt closer, since he described the area as 'aussi beau que le Japon' (<em>as beautiful as Japan</em>). Van Gogh executed the first drawings of the Provence countryside in spring of 1888 in reed pen and graphite on simple, half-page Ingres paper. The fact that he did not use canvases and oil colours was for one thing due to his lack of money but also because of the strong winds in the area around Arles that made the placing of an easel nearly impossible. It has also been assumed that Van Gogh wanted to spare his colours and canvas for the time his colleague Gauguin was to visit him in order to be able to paint together.
The underlying sketch in graphite is clearly visible in the drawings and also that Van Gogh more than once ignored his own sketching and loosely applied the ink drawing on the sheet. Next to using black-brown ink, Van Gogh has used violet ink that today has turned into faded sepia. But one can still see what Vincent has described in his letter to his brother Theo: the intense and wild foreground, drawn with broad strokes in thick black-brown ink and the slowly flattening, wide background that ends in the chain of the Alpilles at the relatively high horizon.
The drawing 'The Plain of La Crau' has a complete provenance that goes right back to the artist. It was he who sent the piece to his brother Theo in Paris in 1888. After Theo’s death, just one year after Vincent’s, his widow Johanna van Gogh-Bonger inherited the sheet together with the rest of Vincent van Gogh’s works. Paul Cassirer bought the sheet in 1907 directly from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger and exhibited it in Berlin. Through the collections of Alfred Walter von Heymel in Munich and of August Heye in Bremen, the sheet came to art dealer Fritz Nathan in Zurich. He sold it at an auction at Kornfeld & Klipstein in 1955, where it was bought by Richard Feigen for the film producer and Oscar winner Harold Hecht (1907-1985). Harold and Gloria Hecht’s son Duffy inherited the drawing and it is now the first time since the 1950s that 'The Plain of La Crau' is back on the market – or even in the public, since the last time it was exhibited was in 1953 in Zurich.
'The Plain of La Crau' was executed in reed pen and graphite on half size Ingres paper (<em>demi-feuilles</em>, measuring 30 x 47 cm). The sheet measures exactly 29.21 x 46.99 cm. The framed dimensions are 47.5 x 64.5 cm. It is mounted onto the cardboard of the mat on the upper margin and on several single spots. The drawing is in an original condition. The sheet is browned and has minimal nail holes in all four corners. The former purple ink is, as in all sheets of the Montmajour series, faded. The signature 'Vincent' in the lower left is still faintly visible. According to the catalogue raisonné by J.-B. de la Faille from 1970, the sheet was titled by Van Gogh in the lower right 'vue prise à […]'. According the catalogue raisonné by Johannes van der Wolk, Ronald Pickvance and E. B. F. Pey, the complete title was 'Vue prise à Montmajour'. This titling today is not visible anymore. It is mentioned and shown in all catalogues raisonnés, either under the number F. 1448 or JH 1432. It is today known not under the title given to it by Van Gogh himself, but under the title 'The Plain of La Crau', or the French version 'La Crau de Montmajour'.
Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam
Paul Cassirer, Berlin
A. Walter von Heymel, Munich
August Heye, Bremen
Fritz Nathan, Zurich
Kornfeld & Klipstein Galerie, Bern
J. B. Neumann, NYC
Richard Feigen Gallery, NYC
Harold Hecht – Gloria Hecht Dresser, LA</p>
Faille, J. B. de la, The Works of Vincent Van Gogh, 1970, p. 507.
Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Vincent van Gogh & Paul Cassirer, Berlin, published by the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1988; ill. P. 132.
Hulsker, Jan, The Complete Van Gogh, 1984, p. 324.
Robertis, Antonio de and Smolizza, Matteo, Vincent van Gogh. Le Opere Disperse, 2005, p. 167.
Tellegen, Annet, Van Gogh en Montmajour, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1967, p. 30.
Wolk, J. van der, Pickvance, R. and E.B.F. Pey, Vincent Van Gogh. Drawings, 1990, p. 221-222.
<strong>Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)</strong>
The painter Vincent van Gogh is one of today’s best known artists worldwide. Back in his lifetime, this was utterly different – he could hardly sell any of his paintings and was forced to economize strictly. His younger brother Theo who worked in the family owned art gallery Goupil supported his older brother financially. Out of gratefulness, he was sent the majority of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings. Due to this close brotherly contact, many letters of Van Gogh are preserved and offer a unique insight into his creativity and thoughts.
Born as the son of clergyman in the Dutch town of Groot-Zundert, Vincent van Gogh received a comparably good education and the family was even able to find him a job in the art gallery owned by relatives. But since he did not feel comfortable in this job nor in several others he tried afterwards – including some excursions into theology – he decided to become an artist in 1880.
He had received no artistic education whatsoever and this was not going to change very much. Instead of visiting a university, Van Gogh visited several places during the following years, amongst them Brussels, The Hague, Antwerp and Paris, where he visited museums, copied Old Masters and learned from his fellow artists. In Brussels for example he studied with Anthon van Rappard (1858-1892) and in The Hague he learned with Anton Mauve (1838-1888). Van Gogh got to know most of the important artists of his time in Paris, such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac and Gauguin, and his painting style got strongly influenced by the French Impressionism. Even more so, the art of the Japanese woodcut influenced Van Gogh and especially his drawings give proof of that inspiration.</p>
<p>From Paris, the erratic artist moved to Arles in Southern France, where he had one of his most productive creative period and developed the unique style for which he is mostly known: strong, impasto colours, applied to the canvas with many, small brushstrokes. Here in Arles, van Gogh dreamed of building an art colony where he would live and work with fellow artists – but the only one who came was Gauguin. The shared life of the two artists ended dramatically with the well-known incident of Van Gogh’s cut-off ear. This drastic moment was the climax of the artist’s increasingly bad mental condition which led to him having nightmares, delusions and depressions and kept him from working regularly. After several stays in different clinics, Van Gogh hospitalized himself in a sanatorium where he was allowed to keep up his painting. He spent his last month under the observation of a certain Dr Gachet, whose role is judged ambivalently by the scholars. Several impressive paintings from this last period are known that hardly give evidence of the artist’s mental confusion. It is this Dr. Gauchet, who was portrayed by Van Gogh expressively and holds the current auction for one of Vincent’s oil paintings at 80 m. Euro.</p>