Top positive review
22 people found this helpful
From $0 To $82,500,000
on 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.