1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Auction house sells Van Gogh, Gauguin brothel visit letter

June 16, 2020

The two famous artists sent the letter while painting together in southern France. The letter is "exceptional," said the auction house Drouot.

a Letter of Van Gogh and Gauguin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Archambault

A joint letter penned by world-famous painters Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, in which they described their brothel visits and discussed their art, sold for €210,600 ($236,000) at auction in Paris on Tuesday.

Both artists, whose post-impressionist paintings are known worldwide, signed the letter that is dated November 1/2, 1888. It was addressed to their painter friend Emile Bernard.

The letter is "exceptional" because the artists described their certainty that their paintings would revolutionize art in the future, stated Drouot auction house — where the letter was sold.

"This document reflects the immense lucidity of these artists in terms of the change taking place around them: they are fully aware that their art marks a turning point and that only future generations will understand it," Drouot adds in the statement.

Read more: How Germany contributed to creating the Van Gogh myth

Brothel visits and art plans

The letter was sent from Arles, a city in the south of France, where Van Gogh was living at the time. Gauguin arrived in Arles, just weeks before the letter was dated, and the two artists spent several months painting together.

"Gauguin interests me a lot as a man," wrote the Dutch painter in the letter. He also described his friend as "a virgin being with wild animal instincts. In Gauguin, blood and sex prevail over ambition."

Van Gogh wrote that the pair visited brothels together: "We made some excursions to the brothels and it is probable that we will often end up going to work there."

Gauguin playfully mocked Van Gogh in the letter, telling Bernard: "Do not listen to Vincent," before adding "as you know he is easy to impress." 

In the letter, both men also insisted that art was surging towards what Van Gogh called "an immense renaissance."

kmm/sri (AFP, EFE)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.