Van Gogh detective discovers exact spot of artist’s last work, painted just hours before his suicide

Vincent van Goghs Tree Roots (1890) Courtesy of Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The exact spot where Vincent van Gogh was painting just a few hours before he shot himself has been found. The picture, Tree Roots, was identified as his last work a few years ago. Now an early postcard has made it possible to pinpoint the location.

This morning Willem van Gogh, the great-grandson of the artists brother Theo, and Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum director Emilie Gordenker will formally unveil a plaque in Auvers-sur-Oise, the village north of Paris where the artist died on 29 July 1890.

Their presence demonstrates that both the family and the museum believe it to be highly plausible that the site of the last painting has finally been found. This discovery could throw fresh light on Van Goghs tragic death.

The detective work began in 2012 when the museums senior researcher Louis van Tilburg and vegetation specialist Bert Maes identified Tree Roots as Van Goghs last painting. The most important evidence came from an obscure and unsigned article by Andries Bonger, Vincents brother-in-law. In 1893, Bonger wrote that “the morning before his death he had painted an underwood, full of sun and life”. The suggestion that Tree Roots was the last picture overturned the long-established belief that the symbolically charged Wheatfield with Crows was the final work.

Vincent van Goghs Wheatfield with Crows (1890) Courtesy of Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The latest twist to the story is the location of the remains of the actual trees. The discovery was made by Wouter van der Veen, the scientific director of the Institut van Gogh, an organisation that is linked to the Maison Van Gogh—the former Auberge Ravoux in Auvers, where the artist died on 29 July 1890.

Four months ago Van der Veen was looking through old postcards of Auvers when he spotted one depicting a cyclist in a road, with a steep slope of trees at the back. He suddenly realised that part of the scene was uncannily similar to that in Tree Roots, the painting at Amsterdams Van Gogh Museum. After comparing the 1890 painting and the 1900-10 postcard he became increasingly convinced that they depict the same row of trees.

A postcard entitled Auvers-sur-Oise, Rue Daubigny (1900-10) Courtesy of @arthénon The painting of Tree Roots adapted and partly superimposed on the postcard Courtesy of @arthénon

With coronavirus restrictions on travelling, Van der Veen had to wait until May, when he was able to drive to Auvers. The postcard is entitled Rue Daubigny, and on reaching the road he was quickly able to identify the spot, just outside number 48. Astonishingly, the largest tree stump in the painting and postcard is still there.

The location is only 150m cut "away" from Van Goghs inn, just two minutes walk away. Although generations of Van Gogh specialists and aficionados have passed there, no one had spotted the link. When Van der Veen visited on 15 May the remains of the trees and roots were mainly covered in fresh vegetation. The slope was then partially cleared, revealing the stark outline of the main root and stump depicted in the painting.

A protective barrier has now been erected to prevent damage and allow the sight to be enjoyed by tourists in Auvers, who flock to visit the Auberge Ravoux (which will reopen next March after the coronavirus closure) and the twin graves of Vincent and Theo.

A photograph of the site, as originally discovered, on 15 May 2020 Courtesy of @arthénon A photograph of the site, after removal of recent vegetation but before the erection of a protective barrier, on 30 May 2020 Courtesy of @arthénon

Van der Veen has investigated what happened on 27 July 1890, the day Vincent died. Citing Bonger, he believes that Van Gogh began his painting that morning, at this location conveniently close to his inn. Although it is Read More – Source

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