A letter written jointly by Vincent Van Gogh and fellow post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin — retailer brothel visits, their painting progress, and frank assessments of each other, was sold at auction for approximately $321,000. Vincent Van Gogh Foundation acquired the letter to a Paris auction house on Tuesday. According to a press release, they see it as “the most important document written by Van Gogh, which was still in private hands.”
It is the only known letter Van Gogh wrote with another writer.
“Gauguin interests me greatly as a man — greatly,” he reveals in the letter.
The letter was written on November 1 or 2, 1888 shortly after Gauguin had arrived to stay at the Yellow House in Arles, in the south of France, where Van Gogh lived and produced some of his most vibrant art Van Gogh dreamed of creating an artists ‘ paradise in Arles and Gauguin’s arrival has been a step toward this goal.
Their time living together will be brief, but intense, ending with Gauguin leaving in December around the same time that Van Gogh infamously cut off his ear.
Although the letter is addressed to another artist, Emile Bernard, the text contains almost a dialogue between Van Gogh and Gauguin themselves, reflecting on their points of view about art and each other.
Van Gogh described to paul Gauguin as “a wild creature with the instincts of a wild beast.”
“With Gauguin,” he wrote, “the blood and sex have the edge over ambition.”
After completing her part of the letter, it leaves the space at the bottom of Gauguin to add his own short message to Bernard and Gauguin also took the opportunity to share his opinion of another artist.
“Don’t listen to Vincent, as you know, he is inclined to admire and ditto to be lenient,” Gauguin wrote.
The letter also contains numerous references to the painting, the two were working on — and where they went in search of inspiration.
“Now, something that will be of interest to you, we have made some excursions in the brothels, and it is likely that we will eventually go there often to work,” Van Gogh wrote. A painting of Van Gogh, created in October of 1888, called “The Mess” seems to represent one of the brothels he had visited.
After Van Gogh cut off his ear in December of that year, he would have given to a woman who worked as a maid in a brothel.
“At the moment Gauguin has a canvas in progress of the same night café that I also painted, but with figures in the brothels,” the letter continues.
The painting he refers to is likely the “Night Café at Arles (Madame Ginoux),” where Gauguin painted Madame Ginoux, a woman of Van Gogh also painted earlier, sitting inside a cafe that the two attended. Three figures in the background of the painting are thought to be the brothel that Van Gogh mentioned in the letter.
Van Gogh original painting of this same coffee is called “The Night Café”, and also describes the interior of the Café de la Gare, although it focuses on the colors of the room and does not have a central human figure.
The two artists both wrote of their feeling that they have been at the forefront of a great movement of art, and that the future of art was just around the corner.
Van Gogh wrote that he believes “in the possibility of a renaissance of the item
“It seems to me that we are, ourselves, serving only as intermediaries. And that it will only be a new generation who will get to live in peace.”
Van Gogh was plagued with depression and other mental health problems throughout his life. He died in 1890 from a gunshot wound. It is widely accepted that he died of suicide, although some have speculated that it could have been shot by someone else.
Although Van Gogh and Gauguin never saw each other again in person after that fateful day in December, when Gauguin left, the two continued to correspond through letters until Van Gogh’s death.
The letter will be displayed in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in an exhibition of the Dutch painter letters saying “Your love of Vincent,” in the month of October.