At 25 million euros, a late work by Van Gogh was the most expensive painting at the “Tefaf” art and antique fair in March. He painted it in the Saint-Rémy psychiatric hospital – in one of his most productive artistic phases.
Van Gogh’s illness wasn’t just a question of neuropathy but something more that resulted in him being seeking psychiatric help.
He is said to have felt a deep peace of mind when he painted the huge pine trees, green cypresses, and rampant weeds in the garden of the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric clinic in Saint-Rémy in the south of France in autumn 1889. The landscape painting with the title “The Park of the Saint-Paul Clinic” has been in Swiss private ownership for the past 46 years and, with a few exceptions, was hidden from the public during this time. The greater the sensation when it was offered by the Dickinson gallery in London at this year’s “Tefaf” art fair for 25 million euros. “We are very happy that we can present the picture due to an inheritance case in the owner family,” says Emma Ward, Director at Dickinson London.
As long as the painting has not yet been sold, it is unclear whether it will hang in a large museum in the future or whether it will disappear again in a private collector’s safe. Many great works from Van Gogh’s special creative period, on the other hand, can currently be seen in two grandiose exhibitions in Amsterdam and Basel (“Exhibitions” box): While the Dutch Van Gogh Museum is still fascinated by the artist for the evening and dedicating the night, the Basel Art Museum will be presenting a spectacular overall view of the landscape from April 26th.
From 1889, van Gogh began to put his typical colors in rhythm, juxtaposed in small lines, and to arrange them in wavy lines or spirals. He was less interested in reproducing reality than in expressing the characteristics of his motifs and the feelings they triggered. The concentrated lines of color and lively, snake-like depictions of plants in “The Park of the Saint-Paul Clinic” are also symbols of his mental state.
When he arrived at the clinic in May 1889, the park immediately had a profound effect on him. He wrote to his brother and confidante Theo, who worked as an art dealer in Paris: “Since I’ve been here, the deserted garden has enriched. . . my work. ”The oil painting he was supposed to make of it in September / October was created during an outbreak of activity: at the end of July, he had suffered another attack of delusions and anxiety attacks that put him out of action for six weeks. At the beginning of September, back at the easel, he wrote to Theo: “I work at full speed, that is good for me and chases away the perverse thoughts.”
He painted the prison garden several times that autumn when he was finally able to be outdoors again. The view from his window and motifs in the vicinity of Saint-Rémy followed later. The creative frenzy that van Gogh experienced was evidently closely related to his attacks of illness, which were followed by phases of great clarity and creativity. He spent about a year in Saint-Rémy. During this time, in which he was fighting perhaps more intensely than ever with his personal demons, some of his most important works such as “The Starry Night” (June 1889) or “Wheatfield with Cypresses” (September 1889) were created.
Theo recognized – long before the public and the professional world – the extraordinary expressiveness in the paintings and wrote to his brother: “There is a force in the colors that you have never achieved before. . ., but how did your brain manage this, and how did you go to the limits of dizziness. ”
Illness to someone as artistically devoted as Van Gogh is not a hindrance to continue doing his passion in art. For many artists, their art is an expression of what they feel, a therapeutic cure to whatever illness they are going through.