Location of Van Gogh's last painting discovered
The place that served as the subject of Vincent van Gogh's very last painting, tilted Boomwortels or "The Roots" in English, was discovered in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, where the Dutch artist spent the last 70 days of his life. A long lost radio interview with a woman who witnessed the artist's last weeks was also discovered, the Van Gogh Museum announced.
The discoveries were made by Wouter van der Veen, scientific director of the Institut Van Gogh. He accidentally discovered the place where Van Gogh painted the abstract Boomwortels thanks to a picture on a postcard from the early 1900s, he said to Nieuwsuur. "On the card, which I had on my computer, you see a man with a bicycle in his hand and behind it a hill with a striking tree structure." It immediately reminded him of the painting. "The similarities were very clear to me. The place is also less than 150 meters from the Ravoux inn where Van Gogh stayed at the time."
Van Gogh painted Boomwortels on 27 July 1890, just hours before attempting suicide. The unfinished work shows a slope with tree trunks and roots.
After making absolutely sure of his conclusion, Van der Veen submitted his discovery to the Van Gogh Museum, where Boomwortels hangs. "The find seemed very likely to us," said Louis van Tilborgh, senior researcher at the museum. They had tree and forest historian Bert Maes also have a look at it, and he confirmed the speculations.
"Although the situation on the postcard is about 20 years later, in Boomwortels you clearly see the same configuration of the coppice on a steep edge of chalk," Maes said. "Coppice is a form of forestry in which the new growth is cut off again and again for use. The great thing is that there is even a stump that is still recognizable after 130 years."
Van Tilborgh thinks that the coppice symbolized life and death for Van Gogh. "As if he wanted to say: I have lived and I have struggled, against oppression." He is delighted with the discovery. "Everything around the mysterious Boomwortels has been mapped out. We know the place, know the motive and think we understand the meaning."
Van der Veen also came across a long-lost radio interview from 1953 with Adeline Ravoux, whose father ran the Ravoux inn where Van Gogh spent the last days of his life. In the interview she tells how she, as a 13-year-old, took Van Gogh his meals and posed for him for what would eventually by the painting Symfonie in blauw, or "Symphony in blue" in English. She also spoke about Van Gogh's last days after the attempted suicide.
"It is touching to hear the voice of a real witness. You can't get closer to the artist," Van der Veen said.
Boomwortels can be seen in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.