Allright, by now most everyone should know the Portland
Art Museum has received a major gift of a Vincent van Gogh painting
, The Ox-Cart
(1884) from Roseburg's Fred and Frances Sohn.
Frankly, such a generous gift is the only way such a painting by van Gogh could
enter the museum's collection and it's worth many millions (in today's market
5-10 is my conservative guess, but that's rational thinking, at auction it maybe
could have hit approached 15 or more). The Rijksmuseum has the other version
of this work, which features a red ox instead of the black one here. Basically the money doesn't matter, it is the fact that its an important piece for the premier public collection in the state.
detail of van Gogh's The Ox-Cart (1884)
So how good is it? It's an early work, one that lead up to his first major
. The central subject itself is a little bit ungainly but the
background is disturbing and magical. I particularly like the black bird in
the cart and the work's relationship to Goya's
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
. I see resemblance to the work of
Northwest Mystics like Jay
who had similar interests, though at this point Van Gogh was deeply
focused on depicting the realities of peasants.
The background is what makes this painting and we see a young artist showing
some signs of his greatest works like Crows Over Cornfields. For most museums
this post impressionist work would be a dream come true and for PAM it holds out the promise that those
who hold major works by Warhol, Basquiat, Martin, Johns, Motherwell, Judd and
Gauguin etc. will eventually follow suit in a similar fashion in an effort to
bulk up the collection. The Sohn's have done a great thing.
Here is what the museum had to say about the work:
Painted in Nuenen, The Netherlands, early in van Gogh's career, The Ox-Cart
(1884) is part of his exploration of peasant life, which included dozens of
studies of peasants, farm work, and the rural landscape. Van Gogh had returned
to his father's home in Nuenen, after he had failed at the clergy and given
away all of his possessions. He rented studio space from the local church and
seriously pursued his career as an artist.
Intrigued by the work of Rembrandt, the great Dutch genre traditions, and Millet,
van Gogh's paintings from Nuenen show his deep identification with the simple,
yet difficult life of peasants eking out a humble existence on the land. This
exploration of the dank and dark landscape is a sharp contrast to his later
work produced in southern France where he was inspired by the bright colors
of the region and the work of fellow artists Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin.
As van Gogh observed about Nuenen in a letter to his brother Theo in Paris ,
out of doors everything is mournful. In fact the fields consist
entirely of patches of black earth and snow; on some days one seems to see nothing
but fog and mud; in the evening the red sun, in the morning crows."
His work in Nuenen (1883 - 1885) established his mature vocabulary as a painter
- the physicality of the paint and the essential formal vocabulary of his aesthetics.
Van Gogh's visual expression of emotions through color and the physicality of
the brushstrokes redefined art-making practices and have influenced generations
of artists. The Ox-Cart represents a critical step in his artistic journey.
It helped to set the stage for his seminal painting, The Potato Eaters (1885),
and for his later work produced in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise (1888-90).
"In Nuenen, van Gogh found his sense of self. In Arles , van Gogh found
his place in history," said chief curator Bruce Guenther, who facilitated