A Van Gogh's painting Mystery

"TREE ROOTS" Van Gogh (l890)   Credit: Van Gogh Museum

By Iride Aparicio

(Based on an article by David Chazan)

Among all the press releases which are sent to us on a daily basis for articles' consideration, we received one, mentioning the article written by free-lance writer David Chazan, which had been originally published on the British Newspaper the TELEGRAPH. in which he related in detail the origin of "TREE ROOTS" (shown above) painted by Van Gogh's and believed to have been completed a few hours before he ended his own life (July 29, l890). Because the topic of the press release was what happened during the lock down of the pandemic, and what happened solved the mystery of the location of "TREE ROOTS," the last painting of Dutch Post-impressionist painter Vincent Willen Van Gogh that the world's Art critics had been trying to locate for years, based on the press release we wrote this article with the purpose to answer the world's Art's critics question: "Where was "TREE ROOTS" painted?


Van Gogh Self Portrait

Born on March 30, l853 in Zundert the Netherlands Vincent Van Gogh, (l853-l890) was prolific Dutch painter who created about 2.100 artworks, that included oil paintings, landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits (see the one above) that he painted using different color dots, in wide bold brush strokes, in bright colors, and in expressive brushwork which contribute to the creation of "Modern Art," Yet, because his pictures did not followed the rules of the Dutch Golden Age (1500-1600) he was not commercially successful, so, at the end of life he suffered poverty, depression and mental illness. Sadly, after his death, at age 37, the paintings that the Art critics had criticized during his life, made Van Gogh, the most prominent and influential figure in the history of Western Art

According to the information described in the Chazans' article, in a ceremony, at the Van Gogh's museum in France, (before the pandemic) commemorating Van Gogh's death, the Museum announced that, according to the Van Gogh's family, Van Gogh had spent the last day of  his life painting "TREE ROOTS" before he shot himself, and  that now, the family was finally able to reveal the exact spot where the picture had been painted because an early postcard had made possible to identify the place. The exact spot was located in AUVERS-SUR-OISE, a village out of Paris.

 The postcard from the year 1905 who led Mr. Van der Veen to his discovery
Credit Van Gogh Museum

The mystery was uncovered when Mr. Van der Veen, the scientific director of the Vincent Van Gogh Institute at Auvers-sur-Oise, had informed them, that he had found the location during the pandemic.

According to the article, he had told the family: "Because I was stuck at home, like everyone else, I started tidying up my things. A few years ago, I had digitized some old postcards dating between the years l900 and l910 that belonged to an elderly lady in Auvers. I had one on my screen showing a cyclist stopped beside a path in Auvers-sur- Oise, which today is Rue Daubigny. My eye was drawn to the foreground, which showed a tree with its roots showing and suddenly I realized I had already seen this image before."

The article explains that after his discovery, Mr. Van der Veen spent two days comparing the postcard photo with the Van Gogh's "TREE ROOTS" and that the more he looked at them and compare them with each other, the more he was convinced the images in the painting and the trees' roots matched exactly. Mr. Van der Veen also deducted that Van Gogh had completed the painting on July 27 before shooting himself and dying from his wound two days later.

Mr. Dominique-Charles Janssens, the head of the Vincent Van Gogh institute, is also quoted in the article as saying after checking the spot:

"It is 150 meters from the Auberge Ravoux, which is now a restaurant, where visitors (before the pandemic) still were allowed to see Van Gogh's bedroom with its period furniture which still looks as it looked when the painter stayed there and where he spent his last 70 days of life before dying in his garret room on July 29 l890. Incredibly, almost nothing had changed since the postcard photo was taken. All we had to do was a bit of digging to uncover the tree roots and after we digged, we realized (when compared them with "TREE ROOTS" painting) that Van der Veen's deduction was right." The position and shapes of the tree's roots in both the postcard and in the painting matched.

The press release ends by saying that after the investigation was finished and all concluded that it was the spot, where "TREE ROOTS" was painted, Wilem Van Gogh, the great-grandson of the artist's brother Theo, and Emilie Gordenker, the director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, unveiled a plaque at the spot.