AUVERS-SUR-OISE, FRANCE – The exact spot where Dutch master Vincent van Gogh painted his last work was identified after being hidden in plain sight for years among a tangle of roots beside a rural lane near Paris. Experts say the discovery sheds new light on the distressed painter’s state of mind the day he is believed to have killed himself.
A Dutch researcher noticed that the scene depicted in the troubled artist’s final work, “Tree Roots”, was visible on a faded postcard with a man standing beside a bicycle on a street in the back of the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, 35 years. kilometers (21 miles) north of Paris. Van Gogh spent the last weeks of his life in the village and completed dozens of paintings there. Fortunately, the card still included the name of the street.
The discovery of Wouter van der Veen, scientific director of the Van Gogh Institute in France, provides a new glimpse of the artist in his final hours. This means that art historians can now see that Van Gogh worked on painting until late afternoon, which means that he spent most of the day focusing on canvas.
“There has been a lot of speculation about his mood, but one thing that is very clear is that he spent a little more time working on this painting all afternoon. We know that, from the light that falls at work,” Emilie Gordenker, director from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, he told the Associated Press in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “So, you know, he was really working to the end.”
The painting, which is not considered to be completed by Van Gogh, is in the Amsterdam museum. Gordenker said that its composition and execution – a strong focus on twisted roots on a hillside – made it seen as a “precursor to abstraction”.
Van Gogh never managed to develop the painting style further.
According to Van Gogh’s version of the museum of life, after working on “Tree Roots”, the artist went into a nearby wheat field at the end of the day and shot him in the chest with a pistol. He died two days later, on July 29, 1890, at the age of 37. Two American authors cast doubt on the theory in 2011, suggesting that the artist was shot by two teenagers.
Van der Veen believes in the museum’s version of events and agrees that his new discovery shows that Van Gogh had a sense of humor and was methodical in his thinking before pulling the trigger to kill himself.
“So the final steps were also something he thought about carefully,” he said. “So it was a lucid decision. It was not a fit of madness.”
The new discovery was made, in part, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
While at home during the two-month blockade in France, Van der Veen took the extra time to organize his numerous files and documents about Van Gogh, including digitized images, like the old postcard of Auvers-sur-Oise.
One day, in late April, during a telephone conversation, he saw the card on the computer screen and suddenly realized that he was looking at the location of “Tree Roots”. Beside the man and his bicycle, roots and trees are clearly visible.
“It was an epiphany,” he said. “A revelation.”
He was unable to visit the site for several weeks, but he had a friend in the village and also took a virtual road trip using Google’s Street View.
Residents know the location and root of the main tree well, even calling it an “elephant” because of its shape, Van der Veen said.
“It was really hidden from view and was a little disguised because it took on another identity,” he added.
The researcher says that while his discovery made art historians more important about Van Gogh’s last business day, it also provides tourists with an extra reason to visit Auvers-sur-Oise. The French village already attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year because of its links with Van Gogh, who spent his last weeks there and is buried in the village cemetery next to his brother, Theo.
“They travel a lot just for one reason – to follow in Vincent van Gogh’s footsteps – and now they can stay in the same place where he painted his last painting,” said van der Veen. “And this is something very exciting for many people. So, I’m very happy to be able to share this with all those who love Van Gogh.”