Customer Reviews: Portrait of Dr. Gachet: The Story of a Van Gogh Masterpiece, Money, Politics, Collectors, Greed, and Loss
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HALL OF FAMEon September 14, 2000
While reading about the history of the Sotheby's and Christie's Auction Houses the story of the highest priced paid for a painting at auction was quite a tale. I qualify my comment with an auction sale, as the possibility exists that somewhere an individual may have spent more. Based on what I have read I doubt it, for even with all the deception in the art world, secrets are not particularly well kept.
Ms. Cynthia Saltzman has written a scholarly work that is readable by anyone who enjoys well-written history, or even a novel. The course this painting has taken in a bit more than 110 years is as extraordinary as the price paid when it was last sold.
Vincent Van Gogh was a troubled man who managed to produce a rather large body or work before tragically taking his own life. There are dozens of speculations as to the manner of disease he suffered, but suffer he did. Van Gogh did not live to see any appreciation of his art, and even for years after his death his work was not of any renown nor sought after. This final portrait that he was to paint did not sell for 7 years after his death, and even then the purchase price was $58 in US currency.
Over the next 14 years the painting would again change hands 4 more times, and with the last of the 4 sales became a museum piece for the first time. The locale was Frankfurt, the year 1911, and the price $3861. It was this last move that was to place this painting and hundreds of others into a collection of Art deemed "degenerate" by the Nazis of Hitler's Germany. The piece also was in the possession of Herman Goering briefly. Fortunately for the painting it was sold outside of Germany, where a new owner would hold it for the next 52 years. The Germans may have thought it degenerate for propaganda purposes, but money was another matter. While the painting was confiscated, when sold in 1938 the passing 17 years brought the value to $20,000.
Until the next and final sale the painting would be hung in a home in New York City, the property of private collectors. When the "crazy years" of the art market arrived impressionist work was in great demand, much of which was generated from Japan. For in 1995 Mr. Saito paid $82.5 million, and then 2 days later another $78.5 million was spent by the same man on a Renoir. What has happened since then really has to be read as it would make a great novel were it fiction.
Ms. Saltzman has done an amazing job of documentary work, and added the history of the times surrounding the work, as well as those who sought the piece, and the personalities of those who came in contact with, or were the temporary custodians of the work, "The Gachet".
A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys a good story written with consummate skill and style.
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on May 21, 1999
The history of a single work of art from conception, several owners, war, and fame as the record-holder for highest price for a painting at auction, this book is nothing short of amazing. Cynthia Saltzman's concept is fresh and her writing ludcid. This is a book you won't be able to put down. It has everything a good story should have; suspense, tragedy, triumph, and action. I found myself holding my breath, though I knew the outcome, as I read about the auction of the Portrait of Dr. Gachet.
This is a book I heartily recommend, and so far, everyone I've leant it to or purchased it for has loved it just as much as I have.
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on June 9, 1998
This is a unique "story" or "history" of a work of art. It is one of the most inventive means, by giving the detailed history behind the provenance of the work, of telling a part of, not only art history, but of the times and circumstances in which the work of art exists. It makes the work of art become more than simply an object to be examined but a real and almost living part of the culture in which it exists. The writing is of the highest quality and makes you want to continue reading to find out what happens next to the painting. It is a wonderful book that I recommend without reservation. I've already bought an extra copy to pass around among my friends.
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on September 10, 1998
The stories of the owners and caretakers of the portrait, from its beginning to present, create a colorful tapestry of their own. For someone who is not intimate with the negotiations of the art world, the book is informative and surprising. It may not have been the author's intention, but I also felt a thread of sadness and melancholy, as though the artist and the subject still have an investment in the future of the canvas. Perhaps it is the awareness that all the owners eventually gave it up and that the current owner has removed it from sight. The author of this book has given us the facts, but has also invested those facts with meaning which speaks clearly about the impact of the artistic process, if one is willing to consider beyond the obvious.
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on November 9, 2013
A very well written and scholarly account of the provenance and future fortunes (literally, in the monetary sense !) of a book about the eccentric physician who served as friend and mentor, of sorts, to Vincent van Gogh's during his last days, in Auver Sur Oise,
and the s act of his suicide.
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on October 26, 2015
This brilliant painting by Van Gogh deserves a better book. She over writes, barrages us with details, and he writing is opaque and dull. One tidbit that was mildly interesting was that Nazi Goring owned this piece and Lola Kramarsky sold the painting in 1990 after spending 50 years with it but this is the key, why did she sell it and what did it mean to her? Half a century with something and Saltzman just dashes this off in another set of endless trivia that is concocted to "sell" the book. Pity.
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on March 1, 2015
Very interesting book. Biographical and historical, shedding light on the talented and complicated master!
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on March 23, 2016
Wonderfully readable. An art history of modernism and the story of a great painting
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on February 17, 2000
It was very interesting story for me to know this masterpiece's history. However, it was too much skipped the history in Japanese period and sometimes I did feel that she has a prejudice against Japanese culture. She investigated history in Europe very well but less investigation in Japan ! I wanted her to investigate it more. Anyway, it was very interesting and I want to recommend it very much.
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on August 12, 1999
She veers off into things that really don't pertain to the needed info about Vincent V. Too much like a history lesson on WW2! How about some info on other masterpieces and there values like, is Starry night worth more than Dr.Gachet? Some art experts put it over that and the value of the Mona Lisa(125,000,000!)Also where is the painting at now and go into why Saito kept it away from the public!?The book in my opinion was done too early!Hey, why don't I write the sequel I could do alot better job in my opinion!
44 comments|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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