How an old postcard led art historians to the spot where a distraught Van Gogh made his final painting
The great artist Vincent van Gogh was painting just hours before his fatal, likely self-inflicted shooting—and now it would appear that we know exactly where, thanks to the discovery of a historical postcard of a bicyclist on the Rue Daubigny in Auvers-sur-Oise, the town 20 miles north of Paris where Van Gogh spent his final days.
The breakthrough was made by Wouter van der Veen, the scientific director of the Institut van Gogh, a nonprofit in charge of preserving Van Gogh’s Auvers lodgings, in the Auberge Ravoux inn.
“Every element of this mysterious painting can be explained by observation of the postcard and the location: The shape of the hillside, the roots, their relation to each other, the composition of the earth and the presence of a steep limestone face,” he said in a statement issued by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which has endorsed the finding.
A 94-year-old French woman had lent Van der Veen her collection historical postcards for his research, but the significance of the image, taken around 1905, didn’t initially register. Then, one day during lockdown, he realized that there was something familiar at about the gnarled tree roots and vegetation on the side of the path. Could this be what Van Gogh had been looking at the very last time he took paintbrush to canvas?
Courtesy of Artnet News