Museum Folkwang
  • Vincent van Gogh
    at Museum Folkwang

  • Karl Ernst Osthaus was the first German museum director to acquire works by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Between 1902 and 1905 he purchased three of the artist’s paintings. In an exchange with Henry van de Velde, Osthaus developed a good feel for contemporary art and as of 1902 collected works not only by van Gogh but also by artists such as Gauguin, Daumier, Renoir and Cézanne. When 18 van Gogh paintings were sent to Hagen on approval in 1902 by an art dealer, Paul Cassirer, this was very probably organized by van de Velde. This Flemish artist saw van Gogh’s estate when visiting Theo van Gogh’s widow in Bussum and enthusiastically suggested that Osthaus, who was a friend of his, should initially purchase two of these works. As of 1903 Osthaus also started collecting drawings by the artist; he acquired his first sketches from an art dealer in Paris, Ambroise Vollard, including ›Peasant Woman, Stooping and Gleaning‹ (1885).

    The paintings acquired in 1902 include the unusually clear ›Portrait of Armand Roulin‹ (1888), with its rich contrasts. One art historian, Julius Meier-Graefe, described the innovative painting techniques in this picture, after seeing it in Hagen: »The picture uses thin paint, not at all like the others. The colours are: a blue hat, a green background in the colours of water, everything in unified yellow and blue. The execution is consummate, not at all artificial.« Van Gogh had made friends with the young man’s father in Arles, as numerous portraits of him and his family demonstrate.

    Another masterpiece by van Gogh is the painting ›A Corner of the Asylum and the Garden with a Heavy, Sawed-Off Tree‹ (1889), showing the garden, surrounded by a natural stone wall, at the institution sought out by the artist in 1889 because of his acute mood swings. We know from a letter to Émile Bernard about the strong effect the asylum’s park exerted on the artist. In ›A Corner of the Asylum and the Garden with a Heavy, Sawed-Off Tree‹ van Gogh atmospherically evokes a landscape shaped by the weather and the seasons.

    On the other side of the natural stone wall surrounding the garden a vista opens up over a wide plain in front of a hilly landscape. Van Gogh could see this daily from his window. The fields of sulphurous yellow served as his inspiration for wonderful pictures such as ›The Wheatfield behind Saint Paul's Hospital with a Reaper‹ (1889). He varied this motif on several occasions, in paintings and drawings.

    In the fall of 1905 Karl Ernst Osthaus showed 11 paintings and three drawings by van Gogh at Museum Folkwang, works he had received through the mediation of Ms. Cohen-Gosschalk-Bonger as the representative of the van Gogh family. We can assume that it was from this assortment that the collector acquired the painting ›A Corner of the Asylum and the Garden with a Heavy, Sawed-Off Tree‹ plus a selection of the drawings that have remained in the museum’s collection to this day, for instance ›Enclosed Field with a Sawer in the Rain‹ (1890) or ›The Plain of La Crau‹ (1888).

    By contrast, the painting ›Quay with Men Unloading Sand Barges‹ (1888) was bought by Ernst Gosebruch in 1912 from art dealer Eugène Druet in Paris for the Essen art museum, in a bold move encouraged by the example set by Karl Ernst Osthaus in Hagen. The busy procedure of unloading the skiffs at the quay on the river Rhône held an especial fascination for van Gogh.

    At the time of their acquisition works by van Gogh and other contemporary French artists such as Honoré Daumier, Paul Gauguin, Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne were not yet recognized as those »classics« that, by working through the problems of their own age in an exemplary fashion, were to exert a fundamental influence on Modern art. It is all the more impressive how rapidly Karl Ernst Osthaus recognized the potential shown by these artists to act as the most eloquent representatives of the creative power of their epoch and of its changes. Because of its completely new painting techniques, van Gogh’s oeuvre attracted particular attention. Osthaus had already exhibited ›Enclosed Field with a Sawer in the Rain‹ as the first work by van Gogh acquired at the museum’s opening in 1902. Together with Renoir’s ›Lise‹ (1867) and van Gogh’s works, Museum Folkwang houses testimonials both to the start of Impressionism and to the time of its demise.
  • Exh_Title_S: Vincent van Gogh
    at Museum Folkwang
  • Exh_Id: 1,633
  • Exh_Comment_S (Verantw): Painting, Sculpture, Media Art
  • Exh_SpareNField01_N (Verantw ID): 187
Works
Portrait d'Armand Roulin
Le parc de l'hôpital, à Saint-Rémy
La moisson
Les bateaux amarrés
Paysanne arrachant de l'herbe
Vue de la Crau
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Vue de la Crau, 1888

  • The Plain of La Crau
  • View from the Montmajour Abbey, near Arles, towards the Montagne des Cordes
  • Inv. C 159
Paysage avec cyprès
La pluie