When lightning struck, the rescuers of Van Gogh’s works were rewarded with a drawing

An amazing story is hidden behind one of Vincent van Gogh’s ballpoint pen sketches, which will be auctioned by Christie’s in New York on November 9. Park in Arles with a Corner of the Yellow House (April 1888) is estimated between 3 and 5 million dollars.

The reason why this drawing left the collection of the Van Gogh family during the Second World War is little known, even to specialists. The home of Vincent Willem van Gogh, the artist’s nephew, was in Laren, a small town just east of Amsterdam.

On August 30, 1941, the house was struck by lightning. Vincent Willem and his family were away, but their governess and maid remained there. The roof caught fire and spread to the top floor, threatening their entire home.

Vincent Willem van Gogh’s family home, named ‘t Lanthuys, in Laren (mid-20th century) Credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation) Photograph reproduced in Hans Luijten, Jo van Gogh-Bonger: The woman who made Vincent famous (Bloomsbury, November 2022)

Vincent Willem owned several hundred paintings and drawings by Van Gogh, which he inherited from his father Theo, Vincent’s brother. Although the finest works were sent to safety in a war bunker in the sand dunes of the North Sea coast, he hung some of the less important pictures in his home in Laren.

Fortunately, neighbors noticed the house had been hit and rushed to help. The fire was quickly extinguished.

Vincent Willem was extremely grateful to his neighbors and offered a drawing to Egbert Jan and Louise Francisca Kuipers: Park in Arles with a Corner of the Yellow House. In 2000, their descendants sold it to a dealer in New York and it was later bought by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

by Van Gogh Park in Arles with a corner of the Yellow House (Park in Arles with a corner of the yellow house) (April 1888) Credit: Christie’s

Park in Arles with a Corner of the Yellow House was drawn with a reed pen, which lends a distinctive quality to many of Van Gogh’s Arles drawings. He was cutting the reeds from the bed of the neighboring canals.

The sketch represents the public garden of Place Lamartine, overlooked by the Yellow House, home of Van Gogh. A few months later, he will share it for two months with his artist friend Paul Gauguin.

In the drawing, the gaze is led along the curved path to two windows that can barely be guessed on the right side. Although the topography is not entirely clear, the larger window appears to be in a bedroom on the upper floor of the Yellow House and the smaller, higher up, on a larger building a little further up Avenue Montmajour .

Postcard of Place Lamartine and Avenue Montmajour, showing the Yellow House (the small building behind the lamppost) (circa 1905)

Van Gogh took the lease of the Yellow House on May 1, 1888, and the drawing was probably made at the very end of April, when he was planning to move from his hotel to a more spacious and private location. As he sketched the green scene, he must have dreamed of his new life in his own home. Vincent posted the sketch to his brother Theo on May 1, the day he announced the move.

The drawing is being sold as part of Allen’s massive sale at Christie’s, which is expected to fetch over $1 billion. It also includes an important Van Gogh landscape of spring flowers. cypress orchard (April 1888) is expected to fetch over $100 million, making it the most expensive Van Gogh ever sold at auction.

Other Van Gogh short stories:

• A letter from Van Gogh is going to be auctioned, estimated between €100,000 and €120,000. Written on January 20, 1890 from the asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, it was addressed to his friends Joseph and Marie Ginoux, former neighbors of Arles. Most of the philosopher’s letter on illnesses, his and Mary’s. Surprisingly, Vincent affirms that his setbacks had a positive outcome: “The disease did me good – it would be ingratitude not to recognize it; it calmed me down. The letter will be auctioned by Drouot Estimations in Paris on November 10.

Letter from Van Gogh to Joseph and Marie Ginoux, January 20, 1890 Credit: Drouot Estimates, Paris

About Bernice D. Brewer

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