Vincent van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un champ (1889) led Christie’s sale of impressionist and modern art in New York last night.
With a final bid of $81.3m, the work becomes Van Gogh’s second most valuable canvas. It sold for just under the $82.5m record set for Portrait du Dr Gachet (1890) in 1990.
Van Gogh returned to painting with this work, following a horrifying epileptic fit
Van Gogh painted the view from the window of the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum. Van Gogh committed himself there in May 1889, after he chopped off part of his ear following an argument with friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin.
This was the first canvas he’d attempted since a debilitating epileptic fit six weeks before.
These seizures were often accompanied by terrifying auditory and visual hallucinations.
In a letter to his brother, he wrote “This new crisis came upon me in the fields, and when I was in the middle of painting on a windy day.”
Orderlies found him in his room, drinking paint washed down with paraffin.
“The act of painting for Van Gogh was cathartic,” explained Conor Jordan, Christie’s deputy chairman of impressionist and modern art.
“It allowed him to express himself and feel his way through the emotions he was experiencing...
“What marks the painting is its deep engagement with the soil.”
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