Saturday, November 6, 2010

following Van Gogh's irises

I love the work of the Impressionists and Post Impressionists,
most of all the work of Vincent Van Gogh.
I am currently reading a little book called

There is a very interesting appendix that follows the ownership
of Van Gogh's "Irises", one of my most favorite paintings.
I often wonder how museums come to own such famous works.

Vincent Van Gogh painted "Irises" in 1889, while being treated at 
an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence.  He considered it a nature study.
Theo Van Gogh (Vincent's brother) who was an art dealer, 
saw that it was much more than a study.

Theo had stored many of Vincent's painting with Pere Tanguy, 
who owned an art supply shop and gallery.  "Irises" was among those paintings.
Theo died shortly after Vincent and Pere arranged a sale of 
Vincent's work for Theo's widow.

Octave Mirbeau was the first owner of "Irises" in 1892.  He bought "Irises" 
and "Three Sunflowers" for 600 francs.

The second owner of this painting was Auguste Pellerin, a margarine manufacturer,
who bought it in 1905.  He sold "Irises" in 1925 (probably to finance 
the purchase of work by Paul Cezanne).

The third owner was Jacques Doucet, a fashion designer.  
"Irises" hung in his study along with works by Manet, Monet, Degas & Cezanne.
Before his death in 1929, the painting had been loaned to The Museum of Modern Art in NY.
In 1935, Doucet's widow arranged for the sale of her late husband's collection. 
The painting was loaned to museums for Van Gogh exhibitions. 

The records become vague until it was purchased by Joan Whitney Payson in 1947.  
She was hesitant to buy it at the asking price of $80,000.

Whitney's son inherited the painting in 1975 and placed it for auction in 1987.
Purchase price was $53.9 million to Australian Alan Bond.

Bond had a turn in fortune and had to default on the purchase.
In 1990, the Getty Museum acquired the painting, in a private 
& undisclosed transaction.  "Irises" was made part of the permanent
collection in the J. Paul Getty Museum.


  1. Wow. Over the past 2 weeks I have been honing in on Georgia O'Keefe's painting, Black Iris and the poem by Mary Oliver - Blue Iris. Van Gogh is ever present, Synchronicity.

  2. It's one of my favorites too - in all seasons.

  3. I've always loved this one, too, and I got to see it in person when I visited the Getty museum once. I had to pinch myself to realize I was a foot away from it. Wonderful post!

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