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Portrait of Dr. Gachet: Wikis


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Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1st version)
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Year 1890
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 67 cm √ó 56 cm (23.4 in √ó 22.0 in)
Location Private collection of Ryoei Saito(?)
Portrait of Dr. Gachet (2nd version)
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Year 1890
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 67 cm √ó 56 cm (23.4 in √ó 22.0 in)
Location Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Portrait of Dr. Gachet is one of the most revered paintings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh of Dr. Paul Gachet, who took care of him in his last months. In 1990, it fetched a record price of $82.5 million ($75 million, plus a 10 percent buyer's commission)[1].

There are two authentic versions of the portrait, both painted in June 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. Both show Doctor Gachet sitting at a table and leaning his head onto his right arm, but they are easily differentiated.



Van Gogh's thoughts returned several times to the painting by Eugène Delacroix of Torquato Tasso in the madhouse. After a visit with Paul Gauguin to Montpellier to see Alfred Bruyas's collection in the Musée Fabre, Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, asking if he could find a copy of the lithograph after the painting.[2]. Three and a half months earlier, he had been thinking of the painting as an example of the sort of portraits he wanted to paint: "But it would be more in harmony with what Eugène Delacroix attempted and brought off in his Tasso in Prison, and many other pictures, representing a real man. Ah! portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come."[3]

Van Gogh wrote to his brother in 1890 about the painting:

‚Äú I've done the portrait of M. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it... Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done... There are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later. ‚ÄĚ


The foxglove in the painting is a plant from which digitalis is extracted for the treatment of certain heart complaints; the foxglove is thereby an attribute of Gachet as a doctor.



Original version

First sold in 1897 by van Gogh's sister-in-law for 300 francs, the painting was subsequently bought by Paul Cassirer (1904), Kessler (1904), and Druet (1910). In 1911, the painting was acquired by the Städel (Städtische Galerie) in Frankfurt, Germany and hung there until 1933, when the painting was put in a hidden room. The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda confiscated the work in 1937 as part of its campaign to rid Germany of so-called degenerate art, leading to Hermann Göring hurriedly selling it to a dealer in Amsterdam. The dealer in turn sold it to collector Siegfried Kramarsky, who brought it with him when he fled to New York, where the work was often lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kramarsky's family put the painting up for auction at Christie's New York in May 15, 1990, where it became famous for Ryoei Saito, honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co., paying US$82.5 million for it, making it then the world's most expensive painting. The 75-year old Japanese businessman briefly caused a scandal when he said he would have the Van Gogh painting cremated with him after his death, though his aides later claimed Saito threatening to torch the masterpiece was just an expression of intense affection for it.

Though he later said he would consider giving the painting to the Japanese government or a museum, no information has been made public about the exact location and ownership of the portrait since his death in 1996. Reports in 2007 have claimed the painting was sold a decade earlier to the Austrian-born investment fund manager Wolfgang Flöttl.[4] Flöttl, in turn, had reportedly been forced by financial reversals to sell the painting to parties as yet unknown.

Second version

The second version of the portrait is currently in the possession of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.

Popular culture

The first version plays an important role in the crime novel Lifeguard (2005) by James Patterson and Andrew Gross.



  • Saltzman, Cynthia: Portrait of Dr. Gachet. The Story of a van Gogh Masterpiece: Money, Politics, Collectors, Greed, and Loss, . ISBN 0-670-86223-1

External links


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