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The day I got to see Van Gogh’s stunning ‘Wheatstacks,’ from both sides

26 12 24
22.10.2021

In the course of Friday, a wonderful painting by Vincent van Gogh, Meules de Blé (Wheatstacks), is being packed up and flown from London to New York, where it will be auctioned on November 11 at Christie’s.

For a few brief moments on Thursday, however, I had it in my personal control. Kind of.

Wheatstacks hit the headlines last week when it reappeared for the first time in living memory. It had not been on public display for 116 years and had never previously even been reproduced in color.

Painted in Arles in June 1888, the blazing watercolor is a study that the artist days later turned into the oil painting “Wheatstacks in Provence,” which hangs in the Kröller-Müller Museum, in Otterlo, Holland.

According to Martin Bailey, writing last week in The Art Newspaper, the watercolor was bought in 1913 by a Berlin Jewish industrialist and collector, Max Meirowsky, sent to a Paris-based dealer just before World War II when Meirowsky fled the Nazis to Holland, and purchased by Miriam Caroline Alexandrine de Rothschild, daughter of the great Zionist benefactor, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild. When she in turn fled, to Switzerland, the painting was seized by the Nazis, and it subsequently disappeared, despite her best efforts to recover it after the war.

In the late 1970s, Wheatstacks reemerged at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York, writes Bailey, and was sold to Texas oilman Edwin Lochridge Cox, who hung it in his Dallas mansion and apparently told very few people about it.

When Cox died last year, and his collection was being prepared for sale, what must have been extremely sensitive negotiations were conducted, involving the heirs of Meirowsky and de Rothschild, and the result was an agreement that now sees the work put up for auction, with the proceeds presumably split on an agreed basis. “The settlement agreement resolves the dispute over ownership of the work,” Christie’s states in its auction catalog, “and title will pass to the successful bidder.”

For five days from October 17-21, however, Wheatstacks entered the public domain — displayed in a small room at Christie’s just off Picadilly in central London — its first showing since a Van Gogh retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1905.

Unlike in some museums, here at Christie’s, astonishing works of art are displayed........

© The Times of Israel


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