Portrait of Dr. Gachet,by Vincent van Gogh. Auvers-sur-Oise, June 1890, oil on canvas.
Dr. Gachet was the homeopathic physician that treated Van Gogh after he was released from Saint-Remy. In the doctor, the artist found a personal connection, writing to his sister, «I have found a true friend in Dr. Gachet, something like another brother, so much do we resemble each other physically and also mentally.»
Van Gogh depicts Gachet seated at a red table, with two yellow books and foxglove in a vase near his elbow. The doctor gazes past the viewer, his eyes communicating a sense of inner sadness that reflects not only the doctor’s state of mind, but Van Gogh’s as well. Van Gogh focused the viewer’s attention on the depiction of the doctor’s expression by surrounding his face with the subtly varied blues of his jacket and the hills of the background. Van Gogh wrote to Gauguin that he desired to create a truly modern portrait, one that captured the «the heartbroken expression of our time.» Rendering Gachet’s expression through a blend of melancholy and gentility, Van Gogh created a portrait that has resonated with viewers since its creation. A recent owner, Ryoei Saito, even claimed he planned to have the painting cremated with him after his death, as he was so moved by the image. The intensity of emotion that Van Gogh poured into each brushstroke is what has made his work so compelling to viewers over the decades, inspiring countless artists and individuals.
This painting is the first version of this motif. Portrait of Dr. Gachet was painted in June 1890 at Auvers-sur-Oise, during the last months of van Gogh’s life, before his suicide. He made two versions of the painting, which differ in color. Both are oil-on-canvas and measure 67 by 56 cm (26″ by 22″) in size. The first (this picture) was sold to a private collector in 1990 for $82.5 million; the second painting is currently on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France. This is one of the most expensive paintings created by Vincent van Gogh.