The key to finding value
The key to finding value
Not all artists, actors, politicians even, get full credit for their achievements during their lifetime. We can all use our own judgement to focus on those we feel are undervalued
Vincent Van Gogh was a prolific painter.
In his short painting life (9 years), he managed over 800 paintings and 1,000 drawings.
In his last 70 days he painted 70 paintings and wrote numerous letters to his brother Theo as well. These letters now form the basis of an impressive exhibition in London.
But it's a little known fact that Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime.
Red Vineyard at Arles waspurchased bythe Belgian artist Anna Boch for 16 ($25) in 1890. This painting now resides at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
The rest of Van Gogh's paintings remained unsold during his lifetime andonly gained fameafter his death.
Vincent Van Gogh died on July 29th 1890, aged 37. He had only painted for nine years, he had only ever managed to sell one work.
And what happened next?
Nobody was interested in his work when he was living yet he is now considered one of the greatest Dutch painters since Rembrandt.
In 1893,"Two Crabs" was bought by the British Consul in Amsterdam for 17, it sold again in 2004 for 5.2m.
In 1895 "L'Arlesienne" sold for 2 9shillings.
In 1928, "Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear" was bought by Samuel Courtauld for 10,000.
Then in 1987, the defining moment, "Sunflowers" fetched a world record price of 25m.
In 1990, "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" was bought by Ryoei Saito for 49.1m smashing the 1987 record.
Then in 1998, "Self-Portrait without beard" sold for 42.8m.
No further Van Gogh has tested the market since 1998, and some artists prices have now surpassed even those extraordinary one's achieved by him, namely Pollock, Klimt and Picasso, but what would one of his better known achieve today if committed to auction?
This once again reinforces my belief that genius and great things are not always immediately recognisable, but whether it takes one year or 100 years will finally be appreciated.
I recently visited the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, and was captivated by the contents.
What was interesting was the chronological order of the exhibition, and the handwritten letters with copious drawings interspersed with the paintings.
The letters really told the story for me.
They mentioned the paintings he was currently working on, to the general housekeeping, and even little drawings of brushes that he needed his brother to send to him.
The letters brought him to life... far more than the paintings.
You could see what he was thinking, and follow the development of his love of art.
The exhibition was a sell-out, and I would hazard a guess that it was the most successful exhibition for many a year at the Royal Academy.
There were long lines of people everyday who had not pre-booked their tickets, and were hoping for one of the few tickets available on a first come first served basis each day.
Van Gogh must have been looking down in amazement... an artist whoonly sold asingle painting in his lifetime, and now this level of adoration.
What I learnt at the exhibition
The letters revealed a lot about Van Gogh.
Once he pursued being a painter he never wavered until his suicide.
His brother never stopped supporting him all the way.
Although, it seems it was only when his brother had a baby, and he was unsure about his own job and future, that it may have cast doubts in Vincent as well.
Sadly his brother died in the year following Vincent's death, as though their symbiotic relationship was what kept them both going.
Van Gogh had previously dabbled with other vocations as a teacher and a preacher, but then found his true vocation in art.
Van Gogh was very taken by studying the labourers and the farm workers, and how they toiled in the heat of the sun, and were focused on getting the job done.
He felt the same responsibility with his art and worked hard at it to achieve everything that he wanted.
Van Gogh was equally enthralled by the harvest, and the end of the year, which seemed to support his dark side, which often came out in his paintings.
He was captivated by the struggle of life, and seeing how people and nature coped with it, and saw it as a "performance" that he wanted to record in every detail.
I have been lucky to hold both his writing and paintings in my hand, but how I would love to have just one of his letters where he sketched his work in progress.
The Royal Academy exhibition reminded me how rare these letters are.
I have not been able to buy one of these in 30 years of looking, so please let me know if you hear of anything coming onto the market.
I would prefer a letter to a painting.
I think that the letters are rarer... and undervalued.
Only last week I was offered one of his earliest paintings from 1881, which was priced at $3m.
Yet in 30 years I've never seen a Van Gogh letter containingpreliminary sketches of his work.
I guess my point is this...
Price is what you pay; quality, value and pleasure is what you get, and it is up to you alone to measure and enjoy.
With art collecting many artists are simply not appreciated during their lifetime. It's true through all areas of collecting.
As collectors we must constantly look around ourselves and appreciate what is happening.
If we can recognise that certain people and their work may be ahead of time, we will be all the better for recognising that fact ahead of the crowd.
Then we can enjoy greater that time that it takes for everyone else to catch up!