Vincent van Gogh is regarded as one of the most influential post-impressionist painter in 20th century, for its vivid colors and emotional impact. Being the famous artist in today’s museum art, how many of his oil painting artwork has successfully sold during his lifetime? Perhaps, the one and only oil paintings done in early November 1888, “The Red Vineyard”. Sold for 400 Franc (equal to about $1000-1050 today).
Similar to “The Night Cafe”, by the outbreak of World War I (1914–18), this work owned by Sergei Shchukin were nationalized by Bolsheviks, and now exhibiting in art museum.
As of today, at least 8 of his most expensive work has been sold since last 3 decades, either in auction or private sales. Below showcasing 8 most expensive oil paintings paid, plus 2 more potentially priced paintings. (Inflation adjusted)
1) Portrait of Dr. Gachet (June 1890) – US$138.4 million (Was $82.5 mil)
Vincent van Gogh painted this piece of his work during the last weeks of his life before his suicide. There are two versions of the portrait. Both painted in the same year.
One of the version was sold in May 1990, through an auction at Christie’s, New York, put up by the Siegfried Kramarsky family. The buyer was a Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito.
Since Ryoei Saito’s death in 1996 Reports in 2007 have claimed the painting was sold a decade earlier to the Austrian-born investment fund manager, in turn, had reportedly been forced by financial reversals to sell the painting to parties as yet unknown.
The second version of the portrait is currently in the possession of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
2) Irises 1889 – US$101.2 million (Was $53.9 mil)
Van Gogh’s passion of painting flowers, has made this highly priced irises paintings sold at US$101.2 million. This brilliant artwork was painted while Vincent van Gogh was living at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in the last year before his death in 1890.
In 1987, put up in an auction (Sotheby’s, New York ). Sold by the son of Joan Whitney Payson to an Australian businessman, Alan Bond. Interestingly, buyer did not have enough money to pay for the bidden price. Eventually, the pieces was re-sold to J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1990.
It is noticeably that the painting style used wasn’t as hash as the famous Starry Night. Back then, before inflicted by mental derangement, Van Gogh felt that he could keep himself from going insane by continuing to paint.
3) Portrait of Joseph Roulin 1889 – US$$100.9 ++ million (Was $58 mil plus exchange of works)
Sold by in a private sales via a Swiss art dealer and collector, Thomas Ammann, to the Museum of Modern Art new York.
Joseph Roulin was described as the typical bread-winner in the household, during the period of working class in 19th century France. Working as a postman toiling for money to make ends meet. A father of three children, and a husband of a housewife, who care for home and children.
Van Gogh did different versions of this portrait. In fact, he told his brother Theo in a letter: “I have made portraits of a whole family, that of the postman whose head I had done previously – the man, his wife, the baby, the young boy, and the son of sixteen, all of them real characters and very French, though they look like Russians. ”
4) Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe 1889 – U$94.5 million (Was $71.5 mil)
Sold by the family of Jacques Koerfer, in late 1998, at an auction held in Christie’s, New York. Buyer remain anonymous till these days.
A self-portrait of artist without a beard. Leading fourth in the list of most expensive paintings. Among many with bearded portrait, this work is exceptionally unique and rare; clean-shaven, crispy-looking, hair gel and back-combing, self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh.
5) Self-portrait with bandaged ear 1889 – US$90 million (Was 71.5 mil)
This paintings sold in late 1998, at an auction in Chrisie’s, New York. Buyer remain suspected to be anonymous. Recently, reported by Forbes.com on 10th March, Phlip Niarchos “Eldest son of late Greek shipping magnate, Stavros Niarchos, inherited father’s art collection of such masterpieces as Vincent van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear””
Again, another unique piece of Van Gogh’s paintings, with bandaged ear. Do you know that he actually presented his lower chopped-off part of his ear to a prostitute at his favorite brothel?
6) A Wheatfield with Cypresses 1889 – U$85.7 million (Was $57 mil)
Sold by son of Emil Georg Bührle in a private sale via Steven Mazoh. Buyer was Walter Annenberg, a Jewish-born American publisher, diplomat, and a philanthropist.
Van Gogh painted this while he spend his life in a mental asylum at St. Remy in May 1889. In his written letter to Theo, “...the wheat field in the sun, which represents the extreme heat... “, describing one of his best sun-drenched landscape in summer canvases.
There are 2 variants of this paintings, the other owned by National Gallery, London.
7) Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers 1888 – U$76.7 million (Was $39.7 mil)
Yet another related paintings on flowers. Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings was auctioned in 1987, an event held at Christie’s London organized by the daughter in law of Chester Beatty. Buyer was described as a Japanese insurance magnate, by the name of Yasuo Goto. Little was known about the intention of this purchased. Neither was a self-interest in a private sales, nor buying it on the behalf of the company. The painting currently resides at Seiji Togo Yasuda Memorial Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. After the purchase a controversy arose whether this is a genuine van Gogh or an Emile Schuffenecker forgery.
8.) Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat 1890 – U$64.1 million (Was $47.5 mil)
Sold to Stephen Wynn, an American casino resort/real-estate developer. An unknown seller held a private sale via Acquavella Galleries Inc., New York.
Stephen Wynn has owned an extensive art collection, including Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso.
Last but not least, below are my 2 guesses on the Van Gogh’s painting artwork, having the ever-potential to be priced highly. Despite the fact of every priceless work already in public domain, both are also well-known for oil painting reproductions.
9) “The Starry Night” – June, 1889. St-Rémy. Current Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York City
10) “The Night Café ” – September, 1888. Arles. Current Location: Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
What will be your pick? I would be interested to hear your ideas and opinions for the next 2 to complete Van Gogh’s Top 10 most expensive paintings.