Vincent van Gogh’s painting Fields near the Alpilles (1889), which the artist produced while he was committed to a French asylum, is coming to auction for the first time next month. It is expected to fetch a price around $45 million when it hits the auction block during a Christie’s 20th century art evening sale this May in New York.
This landscape has remained in private hands since it was created and has never been exhibited publicly. It was previously owned by the designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, who sold it around 2003 to a private European collector. It changed hands one more time since then, and has been owned by its current seller ever since.
Van Gogh made the work outside the entrance of an asylum located near the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in Southern France, where he was treated for a year after a series of breakdowns that led to him severing his own ear. He described the present work in letters to his brother Theo while recovering from the episode, only being allowed on occasion to paint in the outside terrain surrounding the institution. A similar countryside scene resides at the Kröller-Müller Museum.
“Works of this quality from Van Gogh’s mature period are rarely available on the market,” Vanessa Fusco, Christie’s co-head of the New York 20th century evening sale, told ARTnews, describing Fields near the Alpilles as being “inextricably linked to Vincent’s own tragic biography.”
The artist gifted Fields near the Alpilles and other works to Joseph Roulin, a postman with whom the he had become friends while living in Arles. Roulin held onto the work until 1900, when he sold it to a French dealer.
Fields near the Alpilles is currently on display at Christie’s London headquarters until March 1. The painting will then go on tour to the auction house’s outposts in Taipei and Hong Kong, before returning to New York, where it will be on view to the public before heading to sale on May 11.