MAKING VAN GOGH

Intro

Making
Van Gogh
A German Love Story 10/23/2019–2/16/2020

He’s one of the most famous painters in history. His forceful brushstrokes and maverick painterly style are unmistakable: Vincent van Gogh! During his lifetime, however, he was roundly derided, appreciated by only the very few. How exactly did this artist go from being, at best, an ‘artist’s artist’ to such a crowd-puller?

Faster than in France, […] faster even than in his native country […] was Van Gogh’s conquest of Germany.

Julius Meier-Graefe Über Vincent van Gogh, in: Sozialistische Monatshefte, 10, 2, 1906

With a string of key works and by revealing some surprising historical connections, the exhibition at the Städel Museum illuminates Van Gogh’s posthumous rise to fame in Germany in the early years of the 20th century. Gallery owners, collectors, and museum directors were pivotal in making his painting more widely known. At the same time, the young artists of German Expressionism embraced Van Gogh as their great role model. The comprehensive show at the Städel Museum examines the myth surrounding the man, his unique handling of paint, and his impact as a trail-blazing pioneer of modernism.

Van Gogh

van Gogh Painting and Live

Berlin, 1904: Vincent van Gogh’s painting Harvest in Provence features in a group show. His expressive style of painting causes a stir.

Bold colour contrasts, forms that dissolve in the rhythm of the brushstrokes: Van Gogh’s style of painting must have initially seemed flagrantly outlandish to many people. Only a few artists, critics, and gallery owners recognized the significance of his works for the history of art.

Harvest in Provence / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 51 x 60 cm, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem Gift of Yad Hanadiv, Jerusalem, from the collection of Miriam Alexandrine de Rothschild, daughter of the first Baron Edmond de Rothschild, F558

Everything for Art

Vincent van Gogh’s younger brother, Theo, and his wife, Johanna, laid the groundwork for the artist’s posthumous success.

It would have been […] an injustice to arouse interest in [Van Gogh’s] person before his work […] was appreciated.

Johanna van Gogh-Bonger in: Walter Feilchenfeldt: Vincent van Gogh & Paul Cassirer, Berlin: the reception of van Gogh in Germany from 1901 to 1914, 1988
Vincent van Gogh at the age of 19 Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Behind this dramatic body of work lies a dramatic biography that has become the stuff of legend. Born in 1853 to a middle-class family, the Dutchman only found his metier as a painter at the age of 27, after variously trying to earn his keep as a salesman, teacher, and lay preacher. In just ten years, he created a body of work that has left a profound impression on countless artists and modern art experts.

Just as famous as his paintings, however, is the story that he cut off his ear after an argument. Mental breakdowns, episodes of self-harm, substance abuse of absinthe and caffeine – these things all contributed to the myth of an artistic genius teetering on the edge of madness. Van Gogh’s tragic suicide in December 1890 continues even today to inspire lurid fascination: a revolver recently even went up for auction, with the seller claiming it was the weapon used in his tragic suicide in July 1890.

Vincent van Gogh led a life dogged by loneliness and insecurity – throughout which his younger brother Theo was his lifeline and source of moral support. An art dealer based in Paris, Theo van Gogh firmly believed in his older brother’s painting. Month after month he would send money to cover the impoverished Vincent’s expenses, and, as payment in kind, received most of his paintings and drawings in return.

Theo died in 1891, just six months after Vincent. Van Gogh’s entire estate – his legacy of paintings and literary remains (the letters) – passed to Theo’s widow, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. With great determination, she took over handling her brother-in-law’s legacy of artworks: she established extensive contacts with art critics and gallery owners, pressed galleries to feature his paintings in exhibitions, and tried to kindle a new appreciation of the merits of Van Gogh’s painting. She also worked on a complete edition of the correspondence between the brothers, first published in Germany and the Netherlands in 1914.

Theo van Gogh Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Besides the care for the child he [Theo] left me yet another task: Vincent’s work – to show it and let it be appreciated as much as possible.

Johanna van Gogh-Bonger diary entry from 1891

Impact

Impact Between Admi­ra­tion and Incompre­hen­sion

Germany at the turn of the 20th century: A small but influential circle of people in the art world is passionate about Van Gogh’s painting. Collectors, gallery owners and museum directors buy and show his paintings – against the tastes that prevailed in the German Empire.

The time is ripe. This exhibition is an opportunity for anyone who does not yet know Vincent’s work to do him justice.

Julien Leclercq 1901, in: Stein 1986, S. 310

Paris, 15 March 1901: Galerie Bernheim-Jeune holds an exhibition of 71 paintings by Vincent van Gogh. It is the first time that so many of the artist’s works go on display in one place. Several visitors from Germany also see and admire the paintings featured in the show. A small circle of admirers is in united in its opinion: Van Gogh’s painting represents the culmination of the most recent epoch in the French painting tradition.

Gallery Bernheim Jeune, 25 Boulevard de la Madeleine, Paris, 1910

I would gladly put (intense) effort into spreading Van Gogh’s art and attempting to get people here in Germany, too, to purchase more of his work [...].

Paul Cassirer 27 April 1905 in a letter to Johanna (from Van Gogh und Paul Cassirer, Berlin, p. 56)
Paul Cassirer

One of the many to visit the first major Van Gogh exhibition in Paris was the Berlin gallery owner Paul Cassirer. The experience left him in no doubt: he was now determined to show the artist’s work in Germany, where virtually no one had yet heard the name Van Gogh. Within that self-same year, in December 1901, nineteen of the painter’s works were unveiled in Cassirer’s gallery. His resolve paid off: in the German Empire, Cassirer became the most important confidante of Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, executor of her husband’s estate. She granted Cassirer direct access to paintings to show in exhibitions and sell on.

By the outbreak of the First World War, Paul Cassirer had organized a total of fifteen exhibitions of Van Gogh’s works across Germany. But Van Gogh could also be seen at other progressive galleries: for example in Dresden, represented by Ernst Arnold and Emil Richter, but also in Munich at the galleries of Brakl and Thannhauser or Walter Zimmermann.

Gallery owners like Paul Cassirer were unable, however, to sway the wider public with Van Gogh’s paintings. His art was simply too different: it didn’t in any way live up to the prevailing artistic tastes in the German Empire.

Art as taught at the revered academies in the major German cities – this is what carried the Kaiser’s, Wilhelm II’s, seal of approval. Prized above all was history painting, which was supposed to convey a patriotic message, record important events, and depict public figures who had left their mark on history and the nation. At the state academies, mimesis and the lifelike rendering of people and places were the order of the day. Artists were trained to achieve a polished, ‘licked’ finish to their paintings’ surface. Visible brushstrokes were thought to betray the artist’s lack of skill.

Reveal of the Richard-Wagner-Monument in the zoological garden / Anton von Wagner, 1908 Oil on canvas, 227 x 312.3 cm, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin
German Kaiser Wilhelm II

The Wilhelmine Era is named after the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II (r. 1888–1914). Industrialization and mechanisation, economic growth, and scientific breakthroughs contributed to the rise of Germany as an economic powerhouse.

Parade in Wilhemine Germany SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

Pronounced nationalism led to continual military armament, culminating in the outbreak of the First World War. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Kaiser Wilhelm II routinely made displays of the newly forged nation’s power and superiority in military parades.

Kaufhaus des Westens – Department store SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The economy was booming. Department stores such as Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) invited wealthy citizens to take a stroll inside and browse their wares. Consumption became a bourgeois pleasure.

Workers in a cable factory SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The flipside of industrialization: the majority of the urban population toiled in factories.

Tenement blocks in Berlin, early 20th century SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

In the rapidly growing cities, the poorer half of society lived in cramped, often unsanitary tenement blocks.

Upper class living room around 1900 SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The wealthy educated bourgeois elite, on the other hand, had architects and artists design large elegant villas, furnished with the most modern fittings.

Bathers in St. Peter Ording, around 1910 SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

At the same time, alternative, ‘life reform’ movements emerged among the middle classes, advocating healthy nutrition, sporting activities, and new pedagogical approaches.

German Kaiser Wilhelm II

The Wilhelmine Era is named after the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II (r. 1888–1914). Industrialization and mechanisation, economic growth, and scientific breakthroughs contributed to the rise of Germany as an economic powerhouse.

Parade in Wilhemine Germany SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

Pronounced nationalism led to continual military armament, culminating in the outbreak of the First World War. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Kaiser Wilhelm II routinely made displays of the newly forged nation’s power and superiority in military parades.

Kaufhaus des Westens – Department store SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The economy was booming. Department stores such as Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) invited wealthy citizens to take a stroll inside and browse their wares. Consumption became a bourgeois pleasure.

Workers in a cable factory SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The flipside of industrialization: the majority of the urban population toiled in factories.

Tenement blocks in Berlin, early 20th century SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

In the rapidly growing cities, the poorer half of society lived in cramped, often unsanitary tenement blocks.

Upper class living room around 1900 SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The wealthy educated bourgeois elite, on the other hand, had architects and artists design large elegant villas, furnished with the most modern fittings.

Bathers in St. Peter Ording, around 1910 SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

At the same time, alternative, ‘life reform’ movements emerged among the middle classes, advocating healthy nutrition, sporting activities, and new pedagogical approaches.

German Kaiser Wilhelm II

The Wilhelmine Era is named after the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II (r. 1888–1914). Industrialization and mechanisation, economic growth, and scientific breakthroughs contributed to the rise of Germany as an economic powerhouse.

Parade in Wilhemine Germany SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

Pronounced nationalism led to continual military armament, culminating in the outbreak of the First World War. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Kaiser Wilhelm II routinely made displays of the newly forged nation’s power and superiority in military parades.

Kaufhaus des Westens – Department store SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The economy was booming. Department stores such as Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) invited wealthy citizens to take a stroll inside and browse their wares. Consumption became a bourgeois pleasure.

Workers in a cable factory SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The flipside of industrialization: the majority of the urban population toiled in factories.

Tenement blocks in Berlin, early 20th century SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

In the rapidly growing cities, the poorer half of society lived in cramped, often unsanitary tenement blocks.

Upper class living room around 1900 SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The wealthy educated bourgeois elite, on the other hand, had architects and artists design large elegant villas, furnished with the most modern fittings.

Bathers in St. Peter Ording, around 1910 SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

At the same time, alternative, ‘life reform’ movements emerged among the middle classes, advocating healthy nutrition, sporting activities, and new pedagogical approaches.

The Wilhelmine Era is named after the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II (r. 1888–1914). Industrialization and mechanisation, economic growth, and scientific breakthroughs contributed to the rise of Germany as an economic powerhouse.

Courage, prestige, and a liberal mind: these were things that a person needed if they were to stand up for Van Gogh’s art in a cultural climate such as this. A new sense of social responsibility became widespread among the progressive elite. They wanted to trigger cultural reform and free themselves from the conservative tastes of their parents’ generation. Collecting paintings by Van Gogh was a statement of this new social identity.

The art market also profited from the increasing prosperity of the middle classes. They furnished their private homes to reflect their newly acquired wealth. At the turn of the century this led in German cities to a boom in collecting that rivalled that of Paris, then the art capital of Europe.

The Ravine (Les Peiroulets) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 73.2 x 93.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F661

The collection of Count Harry Kessler comprised about 150 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including at least three paintings by Van Gogh, which the well-connected publicist and patron of modern art was more than delighted to own.

Farmhouse in Provence / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 46.1 x 60.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, 1970.17.34, F565, Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

As early as 1891, just one year after Van Gogh’s death, the painter and art dealer Willy Gretor acquired six paintings by Van Gogh. He gave four of them to his partner, the painter Maria Slavona. The German couple lived in Paris at the time.

The Arlésienne / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 92.3 x 73.5 cm, Paris, Musée d'Orsay, donated by Mrs. R. Goldschmidt-Rothschild, who had announced it on 25 August 1944, Paris Liberation Day, 1952, bpk | Adoc-Photos

The wealthy art collector Thea Sternheim owned the largest private collection of Van Gogh’s paintings in her time, with a total of 13 canvases.

The Ravine (Les Peiroulets) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 73.2 x 93.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F661

The collection of Count Harry Kessler comprised about 150 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including at least three paintings by Van Gogh, which the well-connected publicist and patron of modern art was more than delighted to own.

Farmhouse in Provence / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 46.1 x 60.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, 1970.17.34, F565, Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

As early as 1891, just one year after Van Gogh’s death, the painter and art dealer Willy Gretor acquired six paintings by Van Gogh. He gave four of them to his partner, the painter Maria Slavona. The German couple lived in Paris at the time.

The Arlésienne / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 92.3 x 73.5 cm, Paris, Musée d'Orsay, donated by Mrs. R. Goldschmidt-Rothschild, who had announced it on 25 August 1944, Paris Liberation Day, 1952, bpk | Adoc-Photos

The wealthy art collector Thea Sternheim owned the largest private collection of Van Gogh’s paintings in her time, with a total of 13 canvases.

The Ravine (Les Peiroulets) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 73.2 x 93.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F661

The collection of Count Harry Kessler comprised about 150 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including at least three paintings by Van Gogh, which the well-connected publicist and patron of modern art was more than delighted to own.

Farmhouse in Provence / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 46.1 x 60.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, 1970.17.34, F565, Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

As early as 1891, just one year after Van Gogh’s death, the painter and art dealer Willy Gretor acquired six paintings by Van Gogh. He gave four of them to his partner, the painter Maria Slavona. The German couple lived in Paris at the time.

The Arlésienne / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 92.3 x 73.5 cm, Paris, Musée d'Orsay, donated by Mrs. R. Goldschmidt-Rothschild, who had announced it on 25 August 1944, Paris Liberation Day, 1952, bpk | Adoc-Photos

The wealthy art collector Thea Sternheim owned the largest private collection of Van Gogh’s paintings in her time, with a total of 13 canvases.

The collection of Count Harry Kessler comprised about 150 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including at least three paintings by Van Gogh, which the well-connected publicist and patron of modern art was more than delighted to own.

Van Gogh’s art also increasingly found its way into private households. His pictures started appearing on salon walls, beside beds, over mantelpieces. The growing private interest was due in part to the art critic Julius Meier-Graefe. Every educated household had to be seen to own a copy of his three-volume book on Modern Art. In it he dedicated an entire chapter to Van Gogh.

From biography to novel: in his bestseller Vincent (1921), Meier-Graefe created the image of an artist who experienced failure in society and sacrificed everything for his art – a tragic hero. The image sold well: Van Gogh’s name became famous thanks in no small part to this largely fictitious account.

Julius Meier-Graefe, Vincent van Gogh with 40 Images and the facsimile of a letter, third edition, published by R. Piper Verlag, Munich 1910

About 120 paintings and 36 drawings! That’s the number of Van Gogh works to feature in German collections by 1914. Within the same period, the public had ever more opportunities to view his art – in around 60 exhibitions in, for example, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Frankfurt.

The first show of his art that was a commercial success, however, opened, not in Paris or Berlin, but in Amsterdam. In 1905, the Stedelijk Museum unveiled a retrospective of no fewer than 474 works. The public could now bear witness to the sheer diversity of Van Gogh’s art.

Cologne, 1912: The groundbreaking exhibition of the Sonderbund (a ‘special union’ of art lovers and artists in the western states along the Rhine) attracts around 60,000 visitors. What they see is revolutionary: the first survey show of modern art ever. Centrepiece of the exhibit: Vincent van Gogh. The first five galleries are entirely dedicated to him. 125 of the roughly 600 paintings on display are by Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is proclaimed the ‘Father of Modernism’. This accolade resonates; the exhibition is instrumental in establishing the artist’s public image.

Sonderbund Exhibition, Cologne, 1912, View into on the Van Gogh showrooms rba_032413, Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Van Gogh Must Be Shown in Museums

Some German museum directors were also keen to see art taken in a bold new direction. They passionately went about trying to raise the public profile of Van Gogh’s art. They could not, however, imagine the consequences of the backlash to their actions.

In 1902 in Hagen, Karl Ernst Osthaus opened the Folkwang Museum, named after the Norse term Folkvangar (hall of theVolk). In the German museum landscape of its day, it was known for pioneering modern art. One year after opening, in 1903, its director acquired the second Van Gogh for the collection: the haunting gaze of the young Armand Roulin and the painting’s bright, almost gaudy colours captivated viewers, then as now.

Portrait of Armand Roulin / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 65 x 54.1 cm, Museum Folkwang, Essen, F492
Unknown artist, Skylight hall of the Museum Folkvang in Hagen, around 1907 Bildarchiv Foto Marburg

In his acquisitions policy, Osthaus didn’t have to content with vehement protest from conservative ranks: his museum was privately owned, funded by his own fortune. The director was thus free to decide which works were purchased and displayed. This freedom was something other equally progressive museum directors could only dream of!

The Städel Museum on Schaumainkai, 1929 Private Collection

However, it was in Frankfurt am Main, in 1908, that a Van Gogh painting was first exhibited in a German collection financed by public funds. The newly founded Städtische Galerie (or ‘City Gallery for Modern and Contemporary Art’ to give it its full name) was and is affiliated to the Städelsches Kunstinstitut.

Farmhouse in Nuenen / Vincent van Gogh, 1885 Oil on canvas, 60 x 85 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V., F90

The far-sighted director of the Städel, Georg Swarzenski, made the purchase possible. Of course, Farmhouse in Nuenen is one of the artist’s early works. It doesn’t represent such a radical departure from what the public were accustomed to seeing in this period. The picture presents a mere glimpse of the eventual innovative force of Van Gogh’s art. But the purchase of this early, innocuous canvas was meant to prepare the Frankfurt public for another great coup that the young museum director had up his sleeve…

Portrait of Dr. Gachet / Vincent van Gogh, 1890 oil on canvas, private collection, photo: Bridgeman Images

In 1911 Swarzenski acquired a veritable artistic highlight: the famous portrait of Dr. Gachet. The artist’s last portrait, it was painted just weeks before his suicide. Perhaps more than any other work, it demonstrates the expressive style of Van Gogh’s later period.

The entire surface appears furrowed by turbulent brushstrokes. Yet underlying the painting is a pronounced sense of order. The sitter is painted in a thoughtful posture, his head propped up by his hand. Van Gogh thus immortalized his last neurologist, Dr. Paul Gachet, on canvas.

His face has the grief-stricken expression of our times.

Vincent van Gogh in: Benno Reifenberg: „Dr. Gachet“, in: Frankfurter Zeitung, 9.12.1937.

In the current exhibition all that is left of Portrait of Dr. Gachet is its empty frame (which was left at the museum). Only a few insiders know where the portrait is today.

FINDING VAN GOGH Podcast Teaser

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Searching for the legendary Portrait of Dr. Gachet: the five-part ‘FINDING VAN GOGH’ podcast explores the eventful history of Van Gogh’s final portrait. Downloadable from every podcast hosting service and here www.findingvangogh.com

National Socialism and Gachet

Over the next two decades, Portrait of Dr. Gachet emerged as an iconic work in the Städel’s collection. It rose to become the hallmark of the Städtische Galerie and its progressive view on modern art. But the National Socialist rise to power in 1933 also marked a turning point in German cultural life and art. Van Gogh’s painting had long been caught up in the debates whirling around so-called ‘degeneracy’ in art.

But the National Socialist rise to power in 1933 sent shockwaves through the German cultural landscape. Van Gogh’s painting had long been caught up in the debates whirling around so-called ‘degeneracy’ in art. Dr. Gachet’s pride of place in the galleries of the Städel was no longer safe. On two occasions the National Socialists demanded that the Städel hand over paintings. More than 100 works of art were subsequently taken off display and sent to Berlin. At first it appeared Van Gogh’s portrait had been spared. But then, in 1937, a last ‘purge’ took place; all resistance was futile – this time Portrait of Dr. Gachet was included on the list of confiscations and was removed from the Städel.

Nationalgalerie, Berlin SZ Photo/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

In Berlin the Kaiser had the last say on matters. The Nationalgalerie – located in the capital, directly opposite the Kaiser’s palace – was primarily devoted to German art. However, the appointment in 1896 of Hugo von Tschudi saw a director take office with a keen interest in the modern art emerging beyond Germany’s borders. Once established in his post, he dared to take a bold step: with the financial backing of prosperous citizens, he made acquisitions of contemporary art from France and other European countries. He invested his personal wealth in acquiring several paintings, including ones by Van Gogh, most notably View of Arles. On paper therefore, the Nationalgalerie’s budget remained unaffected by such purchases of works of modern art by foreign artists. Tschudi then tried to give the artworks a home in the museum and place them in the public sphere. To do this, however, he first had to obtain the permission of the Kaiser.

Hugo von Tschudi, 1895

Tschudi’s actions inflamed the – largely nationalistic – clique of academicians in Berlin. The explosive situation came to a head in 1908: Tschudi was granted leave of absence and ultimately booted out of the Nationalgalerie. The paintings of Van Gogh remained in Tschudi’s private possession until the end of his life. Only then did some of them resurface in a bequest to the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. For it was there, in Munich, that Tschudi had taken up the post of director of the Bavarian State Galleries after his dismissal from Berlin. In what ways does the unusual composition of View of Arles contradict the Kaiser’s conservative taste in art?

View of Arles / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 72 x 92 cm, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, F516

Today such a thing is hardly imaginable – but back then, the purchase of a Van Gogh painting with tax payers’ money was highly controversial. But it wasn’t just conservative circles that rejected Van Gogh’s painting. Some, otherwise liberal-minded, artists also voiced their dissent at the accession of ‘foreign’ painters into German museum collections.

Poppy Field / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 72 x 91 cm, Kunsthalle Bremen, Society for the promotion of fine arts in Bremen, acquired in 1911 through collaboration of the gallery society, Photo: Lars Lohrisch

The situation worsened when the Kunsthalle Bremen acquired Van Gogh’s Field with Poppies in December 1910. In several newspaper articles and a fifteen-page polemical pamphlet, opponents of this alleged ‘mass invasion of French art’ vented their anger – and their prejudices. Van Gogh’s paintings and those of his ‘foreign’ colleagues were, they argued, ridiculously overpriced; the art market was being ‘over-foreignized’, depriving German artists of the chance of recognition and reward. A total of 123 artists signed the protest letter initiated by the painter Carl Vinnen.

It didn’t take long before a concerted response hit back: six months later, 47 artists and 28 gallerists and writers bound together to release a publication in defence of the growing internationalism of art in German galleries. Among them were Georg Swarzenski, Max Liebermann, Count Harry Kessler, and Max Pechstein. They were able to pick apart many of the xenophobic statements and expose them as false or at least exaggerated. They countered by studiously reiterating Van Gogh’s great influence on the latest generation of artists – not so much in France, but here in Germany.

France as Germany’s Archenemy

Under Kaiser Wilhelm I, militarism and nationalistic illusions of grandeur permeated through all walks of life in the German Empire. In the cultural sphere, however, Germany, like the rest of Europe, looked to France. The French dominated European art, literature, music, the decorative arts, and fashion. German artists simply could not compete with the steady stream of cultural innovations from Germany’s southerly neighbour.

The Kaiser himself, by contrast, made no secret of his arch-conservative taste in art and music and did not care for innovation in the arts. Furthermore, at the latest since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, whose victory had led to the unification of the German principalities and kingdoms as the ‘German Empire’, all things French were reviled as inimical to the interests of the new nation.

Art as a question of national identity? At the turn of the 20th century – the dawn of modernity as we know it – critics, intellectuals, and artists debated achievements in art history through the lens of ‘race’ (or at least nationhood). In doing so they emphasized the national character of various artistic forms of expression and movements in art, and their roots in regional traditions. This may seem unfathomable now, but it was of critical importance back then.

In such debates, Van Gogh was a particular point of contention. On the one hand, he was known to have moved in the circles of the French avant-garde and his work was a reflection and extension of their influences. But on the other hand, many believed that in its raw emotionalism, his expressive style of painting was indeed reflective of a Nordic or Germanic manner.

Van Gogh is ours! It is precisely because he fulfils the essential Germanic problems that he speaks to us.

Oskar Hagen Vincent van Gogh, in: Ganymed 2, 1920

Cult Figure

Cult Figure Van Gogh as a Pioneer of Modern Art

At a time of profound social frictions, Van Gogh’s art sparked public interest and divided the world of culture. Whether admired or condemned – his painting certainly hit a nerve. It became the model for an entire generation of artists in Germany.

He was a father to us all.

Max Pechstein

In their search for artistic innovation and social renewal, young artists propagated their own philosophies and concepts of composition. They reached out and formed affiliations. Famous groups such as Brücke and the painters associated with Der Blaue Reiter – but also numerous artists who have since fallen into obscurity – all found artistic sustenance of one sort or another in Van Gogh’s painting.

The Poplars at Saint-Rémy / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 61.6 x 45.7 cm, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1958.32, F638; Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art

The paintings created in the last two years of Van Gogh’s life served as an example for young artists, who were particularly inspired by his free use of colour. A landscape in Provence is centred on two elongated poplars at its centre, and yet it is primarily the paint and brushstrokes that are highlighted in this painting. Van Gogh arranges the pure paint, his brushstrokes at times going in the same direction in a deliberate manner, at others darting in restless, upward motions. He applies the paint in different ways to different portions of the painting – at times thick, almost sculptural, then once again flat and smooth. By the late 19th century, many artists were searching for a new way to use colour. Van Gogh’s art was part of this development.

Square Saint-Pierre, Paris / Vincent van Gogh, 1887 Oil on canvas, 59.4 x 81.3 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Henry R. Luce, B.A. 1920, F276; Creditline (Yale University Art Gallery, Schenkung von Henry R. Luce, B.A. 1920)

Densely arranged daubs of pure colour: here Van Gogh composes the painting by applying hundreds of daubs of paint, each of a light, unblended colour, doing away with contour entirely.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884 / Georges Seurat, 1884/86 Oil on canvas, 207.5 × 308.1 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224

While still in Paris, Van Gogh moved in avant-garde circles. Painters such as Paul Signac and George Seurat began placing oils on the canvas as separate dots. Seen from a distance, the eye perceives them as mixed tones. Their way of painting was very soon given the name Pointilism.

Augustine Roulin (Rocking a Cradle) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 91 x 71.5 cm, Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam F507

The painting is composed of black outlines. The colour within those lines is predominantly flat. Van Gogh foregoes shade and spatial depth.

Café at Arles / Paul Gauguin, 1888 Oil on canvas, 72 × 92 cm, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

The paintings of his fellow artist Paul Gaugin are also composed of black contours and reduced forms. He was part of the art movement known as Cloisonnism (French cloison: compartment). Gauguin and Van Gogh struck a friendship and exchanged artistic ideas. For a while, Van Gogh sought to approximate some of Gauguin’s ideas in his own work.

Rain shower over the great bridge of Atake / Utogawa Hiroshige, 1857

Unusual framing of subjects and motifs, clear lines and palettes: Japanese woodcut prints were eagerly sought by collectors and became popular articles on the European art market. Many artists of the time were indebted to the art of Japan. In Paris and the Netherlands, Van Gogh had ample opportunity to view and even collect many of the prints he admired.

Square Saint-Pierre, Paris / Vincent van Gogh, 1887 Oil on canvas, 59.4 x 81.3 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Henry R. Luce, B.A. 1920, F276; Creditline (Yale University Art Gallery, Schenkung von Henry R. Luce, B.A. 1920)

Densely arranged daubs of pure colour: here Van Gogh composes the painting by applying hundreds of daubs of paint, each of a light, unblended colour, doing away with contour entirely.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884 / Georges Seurat, 1884/86 Oil on canvas, 207.5 × 308.1 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224

While still in Paris, Van Gogh moved in avant-garde circles. Painters such as Paul Signac and George Seurat began placing oils on the canvas as separate dots. Seen from a distance, the eye perceives them as mixed tones. Their way of painting was very soon given the name Pointilism.

Augustine Roulin (Rocking a Cradle) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 91 x 71.5 cm, Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam F507

The painting is composed of black outlines. The colour within those lines is predominantly flat. Van Gogh foregoes shade and spatial depth.

Café at Arles / Paul Gauguin, 1888 Oil on canvas, 72 × 92 cm, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

The paintings of his fellow artist Paul Gaugin are also composed of black contours and reduced forms. He was part of the art movement known as Cloisonnism (French cloison: compartment). Gauguin and Van Gogh struck a friendship and exchanged artistic ideas. For a while, Van Gogh sought to approximate some of Gauguin’s ideas in his own work.

Rain shower over the great bridge of Atake / Utogawa Hiroshige, 1857

Unusual framing of subjects and motifs, clear lines and palettes: Japanese woodcut prints were eagerly sought by collectors and became popular articles on the European art market. Many artists of the time were indebted to the art of Japan. In Paris and the Netherlands, Van Gogh had ample opportunity to view and even collect many of the prints he admired.

Square Saint-Pierre, Paris / Vincent van Gogh, 1887 Oil on canvas, 59.4 x 81.3 cm, Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Henry R. Luce, B.A. 1920, F276; Creditline (Yale University Art Gallery, Schenkung von Henry R. Luce, B.A. 1920)

Densely arranged daubs of pure colour: here Van Gogh composes the painting by applying hundreds of daubs of paint, each of a light, unblended colour, doing away with contour entirely.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884 / Georges Seurat, 1884/86 Oil on canvas, 207.5 × 308.1 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224

While still in Paris, Van Gogh moved in avant-garde circles. Painters such as Paul Signac and George Seurat began placing oils on the canvas as separate dots. Seen from a distance, the eye perceives them as mixed tones. Their way of painting was very soon given the name Pointilism.

Augustine Roulin (Rocking a Cradle) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 91 x 71.5 cm, Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam F507

The painting is composed of black outlines. The colour within those lines is predominantly flat. Van Gogh foregoes shade and spatial depth.

Café at Arles / Paul Gauguin, 1888 Oil on canvas, 72 × 92 cm, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

The paintings of his fellow artist Paul Gaugin are also composed of black contours and reduced forms. He was part of the art movement known as Cloisonnism (French cloison: compartment). Gauguin and Van Gogh struck a friendship and exchanged artistic ideas. For a while, Van Gogh sought to approximate some of Gauguin’s ideas in his own work.

Rain shower over the great bridge of Atake / Utogawa Hiroshige, 1857

Unusual framing of subjects and motifs, clear lines and palettes: Japanese woodcut prints were eagerly sought by collectors and became popular articles on the European art market. Many artists of the time were indebted to the art of Japan. In Paris and the Netherlands, Van Gogh had ample opportunity to view and even collect many of the prints he admired.

Densely arranged daubs of pure colour: here Van Gogh composes the painting by applying hundreds of daubs of paint, each of a light, unblended colour, doing away with contour entirely.

Pluralism of styles

Van Gogh was able to work exclusively as an artist for just ten years. In this short time he developed the unmistakeable late style of painting with which his name remains closely associated. Overall, however, the painter’s work was influenced by a variety of contemporaneous developments in art, and he consciously deployed different painting styles. These two self-portraits date from the same year: while the earthy hues of one are reminiscent of the lifelike rendering favoured by the art academies, the pastel-coloured, visible brushstrokes of the other clearly lean towards the Impressionists.

Self Portrait / Vincent van Gogh, 1887 Oil on canvas, 38.8 x 30.3 cm, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, F178v Self-Portrait / Vincent van Gogh, 1887 Oil on cardboard, 32.8 x 24 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F380

Van Gogh is dead, but Van Gogh’s people are alive. And how alive! Everywhere there are Van Goghs.

Ferdinand Avenarius Vom Van Gogheln, in: Der Kunstwart, 24,1910

New ways of visualizing the world and new sources of inspiration – this was what the young German artists of the early 20th century (known today as Expressionists) yearned for. In Van Gogh they seized upon a role model for a defiantly anti-bourgeois way of painting and living. Their aim was to depict not only the outward appearances of things but also deeper, inner truths. Painting was about expressing immediate sensation and feeling.

Wheatfield with Cornflowers / Vincent van Gogh, 1890 Oil on canvas, 60 x 81 cm, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Sammlung Beyeler, F808

With stubby, concise strokes Van Gogh builds a painterly rhythm that sets the overall composition in motion. Colour and brushstroke become detached from the represented object and begin to stand for themselves. In Van Gogh’s work, the process of making artistic creation visible is just as important as the painted subject.

By the Sea (Steep Coast) / Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 1906 Oil on cardboard, 71 x 71 cm, Brücke Museum, Berlin © Brücke-Museum, Foto: Nick Ash © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

A sea of colours: the subject dissolves almost entirely into a frenzy of short brushstrokes. Inspired by Van Gogh’s manner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff turns away from applying paint for purely descriptive means.

The Ravine (Les Peiroulets) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 73.2 x 93.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F661

In the painting The Ravine, Van Gogh dissolves the craggy rock into a restless, almost viscous-seeming coloured surface. The artist achieves this through the use of darting and evenly spaced brushstrokes.

Late afternoon (Dangast) / Erich Heckel, 1907 Oil on canvas, 46 x 71 cm, Sammlung Claus Hüppe-Stiftung, courtesy Kunsthalle Emden © Nachlass Erich Heckel © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

In contrast to Van Gogh’s controlled brushstrokes, the painter Erich Heckel pushes the thick oil paints ecstatically and impulsively across the canvas.

Wheatfield with Cornflowers / Vincent van Gogh, 1890 Oil on canvas, 60 x 81 cm, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Sammlung Beyeler, F808

With stubby, concise strokes Van Gogh builds a painterly rhythm that sets the overall composition in motion. Colour and brushstroke become detached from the represented object and begin to stand for themselves. In Van Gogh’s work, the process of making artistic creation visible is just as important as the painted subject.

By the Sea (Steep Coast) / Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 1906 Oil on cardboard, 71 x 71 cm, Brücke Museum, Berlin © Brücke-Museum, Foto: Nick Ash © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

A sea of colours: the subject dissolves almost entirely into a frenzy of short brushstrokes. Inspired by Van Gogh’s manner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff turns away from applying paint for purely descriptive means.

The Ravine (Les Peiroulets) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 73.2 x 93.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F661

In the painting The Ravine, Van Gogh dissolves the craggy rock into a restless, almost viscous-seeming coloured surface. The artist achieves this through the use of darting and evenly spaced brushstrokes.

Late afternoon (Dangast) / Erich Heckel, 1907 Oil on canvas, 46 x 71 cm, Sammlung Claus Hüppe-Stiftung, courtesy Kunsthalle Emden © Nachlass Erich Heckel © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

In contrast to Van Gogh’s controlled brushstrokes, the painter Erich Heckel pushes the thick oil paints ecstatically and impulsively across the canvas.

Wheatfield with Cornflowers / Vincent van Gogh, 1890 Oil on canvas, 60 x 81 cm, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Sammlung Beyeler, F808

With stubby, concise strokes Van Gogh builds a painterly rhythm that sets the overall composition in motion. Colour and brushstroke become detached from the represented object and begin to stand for themselves. In Van Gogh’s work, the process of making artistic creation visible is just as important as the painted subject.

By the Sea (Steep Coast) / Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 1906 Oil on cardboard, 71 x 71 cm, Brücke Museum, Berlin © Brücke-Museum, Foto: Nick Ash © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

A sea of colours: the subject dissolves almost entirely into a frenzy of short brushstrokes. Inspired by Van Gogh’s manner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff turns away from applying paint for purely descriptive means.

The Ravine (Les Peiroulets) / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 73.2 x 93.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F661

In the painting The Ravine, Van Gogh dissolves the craggy rock into a restless, almost viscous-seeming coloured surface. The artist achieves this through the use of darting and evenly spaced brushstrokes.

Late afternoon (Dangast) / Erich Heckel, 1907 Oil on canvas, 46 x 71 cm, Sammlung Claus Hüppe-Stiftung, courtesy Kunsthalle Emden © Nachlass Erich Heckel © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

In contrast to Van Gogh’s controlled brushstrokes, the painter Erich Heckel pushes the thick oil paints ecstatically and impulsively across the canvas.

With stubby, concise strokes Van Gogh builds a painterly rhythm that sets the overall composition in motion. Colour and brushstroke become detached from the represented object and begin to stand for themselves. In Van Gogh’s work, the process of making artistic creation visible is just as important as the painted subject.

From Nature

The desire for something new, coupled with the longing for the original: young Expressionists sought ‘the intuitive and genuine’ in the countryside.

Industrialization, encroaching mechanization in all areas of society, and the rapidly growing cities with their slums were reasons for them to seek refuge in alternative, more natural ways of life. They were drawn, not just to the manner of execution, but also the subjects found in Van Gogh’s depictions of everyday rural life. His best-known works were created in Provence, in southern France. It was there that Van Gogh fled the sensory overload of the modern metropolis of Paris and went in search of the Mediterranean light.

White Cottages at Saintes-Maries / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas, 33.5 x 41.5 cm, Kunsthaus Zürich, Gift of Walter Haefner, 1995, F419 Fehmarn Houses / Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1908 Oil on canvas, 75 x 98 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, On permanent loan from a private collection © Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

Van Gogh painted this canvas in 1888 in the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on the Mediterranean. The plain dwellings are lent an emotionally charged quality through the use of complementary contrasts, such as blue and orange or red and green.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, too, was repeatedly drawn to the countryside. He painted Fehmarn Houses during his first visit to the Baltic island in May 1908. The artist himself said he wanted to capture the essence of life in such paintings. The thick, impasto treatment and the complementary colour contrasts clearly reveal his indebtedness to Van Gogh.

The power of complementary colours

Red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple: combinations that stand opposite each other in the colour wheel are called complementary colours. When placed alongside each other, they provide the strongest possible contrast and therefore look particularly vivid and emotive. Each heightens the tonal intensity of the other. Van Gogh and the German Expressionists knowingly used this effect in their pictures.

Two young men tilling the soil: the motif of the labouring peasants reads like a symbol of virtue and humility. At this sight, the biblical parable of the sower would have flashed before Van Gogh’s eyes, who had, after all, once been a lay preacher. Adopting a motif known since classical antiquity, Van Gogh depicts the peasant as a counter-image to the urbanite, who he believed lived in decadence.

Two Peasants Digging / Vincent van Gogh, 1889 Oil on canvas, 72 x 93 cm, Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, F648
Peasant Digging / Heinrich Nauen, 1908 Oil on canvas, 70 x 60 cm, Galerie Ludorff, Düsseldorf; Foto: Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf

The painter Heinrich Nauen lived in Berlin, but spent his summers in the Lower Rhine. No other subject would he return to as often as the man tilling the earth. The doubled-over posture of the Farmer Digging denotes the real hardship of physical labour. Nauen not only draws from Van Gogh’s stock of motifs, his brushwork also clearly shows the influence of his Dutch role model.

The German Expressionists were convinced that their perception and representation of the world should be immediate and unadulterated. They tried to capture on canvas their own experiences of nature in all its intensity. Here, too, Van Gogh’s paintings were a unique source of inspiration.

Pollard willows at sunset / Vincent van Gogh, 1888 Oil on canvas on cardboard, 31.6 x 34.3 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands, F572

A fiery orb with its own aureole: in the late 19th century, Van Gogh was one of the few artists to depict the sun as a subject in its own right. In Willows at Sunset Van Gogh hangs across the canvas a woven mesh of colours made up of spindly, stick-narrow brushstrokes. The painter is said to have spent hours immersed in the acute observation of nature and painting his impressions. Van Gogh captures the intensity with which he sees and experiences the view before him. His expressive colour landscapes are born of this intensity of perception.

A pale sunburst through grey clouds: the motif of the sun’s radiating beams also forms the centre of Otto Dix’s painting. Greys, blacks, and white – you would scarcely find this choice of palette in one of Van Gogh’s later works! Dix’s rendering of landscape conveys a deeper meaning and is imbued with symbolic power. Under the signature is the year: 1913. In hindsight, this ominous picture can be seen as a premonition of the First World War.

Sunrise / Otto Dix, 1913 Oil on paper on cardboard, 50.5 x 66 cm, Städtische Galerie Dresden – Art Collection, Museen der Stadt Dresden, Photo: Herbert Boswank, acquired 2012 with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, the Kulturstiftung der Länder, the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, and the Rudolf-August Oetker Stiftung © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

He [Van Gogh] … was one with the element that he depicted, painting himself in the blazing clouds in which a thousand suns threaten the Earth’s destruction, in the trees crying aghast up to the heavens, in the terrible expanse of his planes.

Julius Meier-Graefe Vincent van Gogh, 1910

The sun as an ominous sign. It is no coincidence that Dix dramatizes the sun in this way, following Van Gogh’s lead. Many of the Expressionist painters thought that underlying the Dutch artist’s paintings was a visionary power. But where could they have got this idea from?

Van Gogh as prophet: art critic Julius Meier-Graefe made this picture of the artist well known to the reading public in the 1910s and 1920s. In numerous writings and essays he was instrumental in spinning the myth around the painter. Most notably, his novel Vincent became a bestseller in Germany – and, from 1931, appeared with the reverent subtitle ‘Novel of a God-Seeker’.

Self-Portrait / Vincent van Gogh, 1887 Oil on artist's board, mounted on cradled panel, 41 x 32.5 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1954.326, F345

In it, Meier-Graefe presents readers with a larger-than-life, cloyingly marketable portrayal of Van Gogh. His heroic figure is an artist who devotes his life to art, without the faintest interest in commercial success, eking out his days in tragic impoverishment. As the author would have it, Van Gogh’s canvases were painted in a state of ecstatic intoxication. The portrayal is of the genius artist teetering on the edge of madness.

Trees scream, clouds give chase in horror, suns glisten like glowing holes in chaos. The paintings, as we know, were often painted in a blind frenzy.

Julius Meier-Graefe Julius Meier-Graefe, Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Kunst, 1904
Self-Portrait / Peter August Böckstiegel, 1913 Oil on canvas, 48 x 38.5 cm, Peter-August-Böckstiegel-Stiftung, Werther (Westf.) © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019 Self-Portrait with a Palette / Ludwig Meidner, 1919 Oil, Tempera on cardboard, 70.1 x 54.6 cm, Winfried Flammann, Karlsruhe © Ludwig Meidner-Archiv, Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Frankfurt am Main

The path of the alternative thinker, the outsider to society, intoxicating agitation in life and on canvas, and the total sacrifice to art – Julius Meier-Graefe’s version of Van Gogh fuelled how a generation of younger German artists wished to see themselves. Artists chose to dramatize themselves as sharing in Van Gogh’s extraordinary, almost painful sensibility and visionary painterly powers.

They [the artists] marvel at how boldly he takes on nature, […] his determination to have said everything there is to say, what he feels, the urgency with which he expresses the most bizarre emotional turbulences […].

Maurice Denis Von Gauguin und van Gogh zum Klassizismus, in: Kunst und Künstler. Illustrierte Monatsschrift für bildende Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, 8, 1910

Outro

Be it in major movie releases, novels, tote bags, or stationery – nowadays Van Gogh is a brand. The myth of (and surrounding) the artist continues to the present day. He is now the product of systematic mythologizing that can partly be traced back to influential gallery owners, publicists, collectors, and museum directors in Germany active in the pre-war years, reacting to the conservative forces of their day. Vincent van Gogh’s painterly innovations also exerted a unique fascination over the new generation of German artists. Today the verdict is unanimous: Vincent van Gogh was a key figure for the German avant-garde in the early 20th century.

Hint

hint

Van Gogh’s calligraphic handling of the paint – readable as his own unmistakable handwriting? In the early 20th century, many people only knew his pictures from magazines or catalogues. Instead of the radiant paintings, all they saw were black-and-white reproductions. Some buyers keen to get their hands on a Van Gogh didn’t notice the obvious difference between an original and fake. The biggest forgery of Van Gogh’s art has itself become the stuff of legend. By 1928, the art dealer Otto Wacker had launched some 30 forgeries onto the art market, where they entered circulation. Those painted by his brother, Leonhard Wacker, were first revealed by art experts as forgeries when they were compared directly with the real paintings. One thing is certain: a Van Gogh painting can only really be experienced in the original.

left: The sower (after Millet) / Vincent van Gogh, 1890; right: Sower / Leonhard Wacker, 1928 left: Oil on canvas, 64 x 55 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands F689; right: Oil on cavas, 44 x 57.5 cm, Private collection