Van Gogh watercolor landscape auctioned for a record $35.9 million

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A Vincent van Gogh landscape seized by the Nazis during their Second World War occupation of France sold at auction in New York on Thursday (November 11) for $35.9 million, a record for a watercolor by the Dutch impressionist.

The 1888 work, “Mueles de ble”, was purchased for well above its pre-sale estimate of $20-30 million, auction house Christie’s said. It was last exhibited in 1905.

“Mueles de ble” depicts a haystack in Arles, France, where van Gogh lived for more than a year in the 1880s. Unlike his best-known work, which was painted with oils, the painting was executed in watercolor, gouache, pen, and ink on paper.

The work was initially owned after the artist’s suicide at 37 by his brother, Theo van Gogh. After passing through several owners, it was seized by Nazi forces during their occupation of France.

Following the war, the painting’s whereabouts were unclear until the 1970s. It was in private hands until Christie’s purchased the work through a settlement with the collector and heirs of the original owners.

Another Van Gogh, ‘Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès’ fetched $71,350,000 at the auction, while the artist’s portrait ‘Jeune homme au bleuet’ went for $46,732,500 – over six times it’s high estimate.

Works by other artists sold at the auction included Paul Cézanne’s ‘L’Estaque aux toits rouges,’ which fetched $55,320,000. The painting had been exhibited only once since it was painted.

On the modern side, two Andy Warhol portraits exceeded their estimates. ‘Jean-Michel Basquiat’ fetched $40,091,500, while ‘Muhammad Ali’ reached $18,107,500, nearly three times its high estimate.