By George Pissalidis
Avalon of the Arts proudly informs in a world exclusive that a great gap in the story of Van Gogh and modern art is going to be filled thanks to a Greek publisher.
Pelasgos Publications of Ioannis Giannakenas, known in Greece, for his historic books, published the anecdote workbook of the great Dutch painter, with the last works of his life, gifted to his physician!
t is the anecdote painting workbook that Vincent van Gogh had gifted to his physician, Dr. Félix Rey, who treated him at the hospital of Arles, after the infamous incident with his severed ear.
Dr. Félix Rey was a physician who really cared about the mental and physical health of the shattered van Gogh. Actually, while under his care, the aggressiveness of van Gogh and his dark art had subsided. To thank him, van Gogh painted his portrait and later on gifted him a workbook with his sketches.
Van Gogh writes, as a dedication:
My dear Doctor Félix Rey,
I humanly beg you to please accept this workbook with sketches inspired by your beautiful country, as a token of gratitude and appreciation of everything you have done for me. I pray to the Almighty, to always keep you under His protection.
Through a woman, referred to as “Elisa”, this workbook reached the hands of the Cretan painter Aristotelis Giannakoudakis and through him, it reached the Pelasgos Publications house.
For Greece, the publication of the book comes at a time after both the exhibition Van Gogh Alive and the awarded film “Loving Vincent” were extremely popular.
But what is included into the legendary painting workbook of van Gogh, which Giannakoudakis calls the “Holy Grail” of the great Dutch painter’s art?
First of all, on the cover there is a self-portrait of the painter which is rather rare for him and the back cover bears his signature. Based on the assertions of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Greece, both the signature and the works themselves, are genuine. It also includes the initial sketches and further transformations of works that are already available in museums all over the world and in private collections, as well as works that he was planning to paint but was stopped by his suicide on July 29th, 1890.
Among the known works, we find the “Potato eaters” in which however we have detailed paintings of each face individually, which are actually better than the final work.
There is also the “Chair of the painter” which was located in the yellow house at Arles, in dimensions of 93×73.5cm, an oil-painting on canvas which does not differ at all from a painting found at the London National Gallery.
There are many works with piles of straw, reminiscent of a medium sized painting found at the Art Academy of Honolulu.
There are two pieces of “Still Life”, one of which is a vase with flowers and the other one a coffee pot which he describes as: “A blue enamel coffee pot, a vivid blue and gold cup on the left, a milk dispenser with light blue and white squares, a white cup on the right…”. This second one reminds of a work found in the private collection of Elisa Goulandri.
Both these works, as well as many of the works in this workbook have been painted by memory, a technique van Gogh was taught by Paul Gauguin when they were living together at the South, before the infamous incident with the severed ear.
There are two works found in the Edinburgh Museum and the van Gogh Museum: “Women carrying sacks of coal” and the “Arlesiennes”.
Finally, there are works that he painted during the period when he was being treated by Dr. Felix Rey in the mental hospital of Arles, such as the “Wheatfields” and “Fountain at the courtyard of the Saint-Paul hospital” (1889).
All these have been painted with controlled use of water, by “Conté” pens which, because of the nature of the paper, are easily transformed into watermarked surfaces.
In one of his letters to his brother Theodore, he writes:
“From the Hague, I brought Conté-crayons bearing the name of their manufacturer, the French chemist Nicolas Conté and I use them a lot in my work. I have also begun working with a brush and paper wiper with sepia or Indian ink, and every now and then with some color!”
This technique creates exquisite works, which are many times more successful than the final works; an advantage in this publication of “Pelasgos Publications” which is a world exclusivity.