March 5, 2014 - 17:34 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A painting that made Vincent van Gogh's name will go on sale this month after almost half a century hidden away in private ownership, The Guardian said.
Le Moulin de la Galette depicts a windmill against a sunny sky above Montmartre in Paris. It was first shown in public in Amsterdam, 15 years after Van Gogh's death. Later it was the proud possession of the powerful American industrialist who inspired Ian Fleming to create his arch-villain Auric Goldfinger, the quintessential enemy of James Bond, whose closest companion was a fluffy white cat.
Van Gogh painted the work in April 1887 at a key point in the development of his vibrant, colourful style. During a two-year period, just after he had moved to Paris to live with his brother, Theo, the impoverished painter moved away from his customary dark studies of Dutch landscapes and his paintings took on some of the mannerisms of the impressionist movement in the hope that they might sell. Encouraged by Theo, he set up his easel by the windmills near their apartment in the artistic quarter above the French capital.
When the painter died from self-inflicted wounds in 1890, his many unsold works passed to his brother. But when Theo died in January 1891, his wife, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, inherited them all.
The widow was determined to prove her late brother-in-law's talent to the world and set up a series of exhibitions showcasing his work. The most influential of these was a major exhibition staged at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1905. The label on the back of Le Moulin de Galette reveals that this work was included in that crucial show. Unusually, the painting is also clearly signed by Van Gogh.
"This is a painting that has everything," says James Roundell of Dickinson, the dealer that will handle the sale for an anonymous private collector. "It is rare to have such a prominent signature in a work of this date and it is one of only two of his series of paintings depicting windmills of Montmartre still in private hands."
The year after the Amsterdam show, Johanna gave the picture to the painter Isaac Israels, the man who had been her lover following her husband's death. He gave her a portrait in exchange. Following Israels's death in 1934, the increasingly valuable painting passed through more than one collection before Charles Engelhard, the flamboyant president of the Engelhard Minerals and Chemicals Corporation, bought it in 1958.
Known for his high living, Engelhard owned a fleet of private jets and a stable of champion racehorses, including the Derby winner Nijinsky. He had made his fortune importing precious metals, including some South African gold thought to have been bought in secret to avoid export restrictions. He numbered the Kennedy family and Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond thrillers, among his friends and spent millions on amassing a first-class art collection, featuring works by Manet and Monet, as well as Van Gogh.
Engelhard met Fleming when he became a customer of the London bank Robert Fleming & Co, founded by the author's grandfather. Fleming was intrigued by Engelhard's extravagant lifestyle and when he wrote Goldfinger, published in 1959, he based its eponymous villain on him. Engelhard seems to have taken this as a compliment and began calling one of the stewardesses on his private jet Pussy Galore, after the character played in the film by Honor Blackman. The name Goldfinger was purloined from the architect Erno Goldfinger, who did not feel so relaxed about it.
The painting is expected to sell for an eight-figure sum at the annual TEFAF art fair in Maastricht in the Netherlands, which will also see an important work by William Hogarth offered for sale for the first time since the 18th century. The Fine Art Society will be taking The Beggar's Opera II, one of Hogarth's first works in oils, for presentation in the year that marks the 250th anniversary of his death.