‘Wheatstacks’ could become Van Gogh’s most expensive work

The painter Vincent Van Gogh has lived in poverty all his life. However, his famous watercolor Millstones of wheat, made in Arles in 1888, could sell for an exorbitant price at auction in New York on November 11, 2021. The sale of this work, in the hands of the Nazis until 1945, is particularly expected, because it will allow in particular to settle an old legal dispute between two Jewish families and the heirs of its last American owner, Edwin Cox, who died in 2020, recalls France 3 Régions.

This work also fits into a particularly flourishing period for the artist. “He literally worships the yellow of the Provence sun, and the sulfur and golden hue of its light”, we can read on the Van Gogh Foundation website.

Estimated between 20 and 30 million dollars (that is to say between 17.2 million and 25.9 million euros), the painting could thus become the most expensive work of the artist, in front of La Moisson enProvence, sold 14.6 million dollars in 1997 as well as Sous-bois oil, sold for 26 million, two years earlier. This new sale will take place during The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism, organized by the Christie’s house (owned by François Pinault, also owner of the Point), in New York, on November 11.

What is the secret history of this work?

Behind this work hides a unique story. Wheatstones was initially a preparatory study for oil on canvas, before being painted a week later. The artist then offers it to his brother Theo. But the latter’s widow separated in favor of the Parisian collector Gustave Fayet in 1907, then of a Berlin industrialist, Max Meirowsky, six years later.

While this Jewish collector was forced to flee Germany – threatened by the Nazi regime – in 1938 for Amsterdam, he entrusted the painting to a German art dealer. But he immediately resells it to Alexandrine de Rotschild, of the famous family of Jewish bankers, installed in Paris. Which in turn fled to Switzerland when war broke out in 1939.

Also, Van Gogh’s work ends up in the hands of the Nazis in Austria. She disappeared until tentatively resurfaced in 1979 through an oil tycoon. He acquires it in order to keep it at home out of sight, with the sole knowledge of those close to him. It wasn’t until his death last year, with the sale of his fabulous art collection, that the work once again caught the eye of the world. The Meirowsky and Rotschild heirs then attempt to assert their rights over the painting with its incredible history.

The three parties have finally reached an agreement to share the fruits of the sale at Christie’s. Even if auctioned for the lowest estimate of $ 20 million, this watercolor is set to become Van Gogh’s most expensive work on paper. On average, all of Van Gogh’s works are estimated between 200,000 euros and 78 million euros, among the most expensive in the world.

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