Comfortable and Furious

Famous After His Time: Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime. He titled it The Red Vineyards at Arles, and for his efforts, he received 400 francs, roughly the equivalent of $2000 today. The fact that he only sold one painting (he had traded others among fellow artists) stands in stark contrast to the fact that he created over 2100 pieces of art. Eight hundred and sixty of those were oil paintings.

An interesting aside about the work that he sold is the fact that he was nowhere near the vineyard when he painted it. He did it entirely from memory and imagination the day after he visited the wine plantation.

Van Gogh completed Vineyards in 1888, two years before he would take his life at the age of 37 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. During those last two years, he painted the majority of the works he is now known for…The Starry Night, The Night Cafe, and numerous others.

The Red Vineyards at Arles, 1888. It is on display at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

Van Gogh wasn’t totally without recognition during his lifetime. In January of 1890, seven months before he took his life, French art critic Albert Aurier published Les Isoles: Vincent van Gogh in the Mercure de France. It wasn’t exactly a glowing review of his work, but it did capture the spirit of the man and how that spirit expressed itself in his art.

In 1903, works from Vincent van Gogh entered museum collections in Vienna and Rotterdam and the Folkwang Museum. In 1928 Jacob Baart de la Faille published a catalog of Van Gogh’s works. This comprised numerous paintings, drawings, and prints.

In time, his masterpieces found their way into the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London (along with numerous lesser-known British and American galleries). In 1990 Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for a cool $82.5 million USD (approximately $148-$152 million in today’s dollars) one hundred years after he painted it.

Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet

The work was sold via auction at Christie’s to Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito. Saito has since passed, and the location of the portrait is unknown. Over the years, the name van Gogh has become synonymous with art, especially post-impressionism. In death, he became of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.