GOGH, Vincent van
(b. 1853, Groot Zundert, d. 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)
Portrait of Doctor GachetJune 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise
Oil on canvas, 68 x 57 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Catalogue numbers: F 754, JH 2014.
In Auvers, during the last months of his life, van Gogh's suppleness of line reached heights of lyrical effusion. This treatment of form went hand in hand with an increasingly imaginative use of colour, which was a resource that van Gogh used quite ascetically. In many paintings, as in the Portrait of Doctor Gachet for example, where the flat area of red offsets nuances ranging from blue to purplish.
Dr. Gachet was an ardent republican and socialist, and devoted to his artist friends, whose scorned and derided works he collected diligently. Soon he was inspired to paint too, and, using the pseudonym van Ryssel, he made something of a name for himself, mainly as a graphic artist.
As a token of friendship, van Gogh painted two portraits of the doctor. He also did an etching; Gachet himself was a specialist in the technique and encouraged van Gogh to try his hand, though it remained van Gogh's only venture in this direction. The three versions show Gachet in the pose van Gogh considered typical of the man, in a contemplative and slightly melancholy mood. (Gachet had written a doctoral thesis on melancholy.)