Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) painted this "Jardin du Poète "(the Garden of the Poet) while he was in Arles, South of France, in the late 80s where he painted more than 200 canvases in 15 months. He became enthusiastic for the idea of founding an artists' co-operative at Arles and towards the end of the year he was joined by Gauguin. But as a result of a quarrel between them van Gogh suffered the crisis in which occured the famous incident when he cut off his left ear (or part of it).

The Jardin, part of the fabulous Ford's collection that went on sale in New York on May 13th 1980, fetched in presence of an audience of 1,300 people the fantastic sum of $5.2 million.

Poor Vincent had sold only one painting during his lifetime (
Red Vineyard at Arles; Pushkin Museum, Moscow, made in Arles, November 1888, Oil on Canvas, 75 x 93 cm), and was little known to the art world at the time of his death, but his fame grew rapidly thereafter. Van Gogh shot himself on 29 July 1890, just 20 months after painting The Red Vineyard and only five months after it was sold. His brother Theo died the following year and Gauguin left France for Tahiti. For the vignerons of The Red Vineyard, unaware of the artistic turmoil in their midst, life probably went on much as normal.

In the picture to the left which is the first of the three vineyards painted by Vincent van Gogh just before his death, the artist appears to have depicted with considerable accuracy a virus-infected vineyard. In September 1888 (two months before The Red Vineyard, suggesting a protracted harvest), he had painted his first vineyard canvas, The Green Vineyard, a daytime rather than evening representation of the same subject. Among the green sprawl of the vines are hints of red. The red leaves are indicative of' the leafroll virus that reduces yield and delays ripening, as well as suggesting the presence of phylloxera. This was a colossal problem in France at the time, ravaging Provence's vineyards towards the end of the 19th century.

Over 20,000 people visited the 5 days exhibition prior to the Ford's sale. The total of the sale reached $ 18.3 million. Henri Ford II had said that he would come to the sale but then told the auctioneers that there was a strike in Detroit and that he preferred not to be seen at the sale :"It would look very bad, he said, if I was seen to have made 10 million (the amount of the estimate) or more while I was telling the automobile constructors to get stuffed for $1.5." When the autioneers told him the sale had made 18 millions, he was nonplussed and said:"Well done, Jesus, people are crazy."

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