Van Gogh Museum purchases 'Pollard willow' by Vincent van Gogh

10 May 2012

For the first time in five years, the Van Gogh Museum has purchased a work by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). The watercolour Pollard willow is a major addition to the museum’s collection.

Director Axel Rüger comments: ‘This specific work was on the museum’s wish list as a major potential purchase, because it is one of the most representative watercolours from Van Gogh’s period in The Hague, and until now, there was a gap in our collection here. That this work is now part of our collection is fantastic, not just for the Van Gogh Museum but also for the Dutch public art collections in general’.

Pollard willow could not have been purchased without substantial contributions from the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, the BankGiro Lottery, the Rembrandt Association and her Prints and Drawings Fund, the VSB Foundation, and the Mondriaan Fund.

Pollard willow was executed in The Hague in July 1882, a period in which Van Gogh produced –for the first time− a number of large, fully-fledged watercolours. Of all of them, this was the one with which he was most satisfied as he described in one of his letters.

"I’ve attacked that old giant of a pollard willow, and I believe it has turned out the best of the watercolors." Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, 31 July 1882.

The work displays a path alongside a stretch of water, with a pollard willow standing beside it. Clearly visible in the background are the buildings of the depot at Rijnspoor railway station. Van Gogh stumbled on this spot on one of his many journeys in the surroundings of his house on Schenkstraat, in The Hague. He describes the motif at length in two letters, absorbed in the atmosphere of the scene that he wished to evoke. In a letter to Theo, he wrote: ‘A sombre landscape — that dead tree beside a stagnant pond covered in duckweed, in the distance a Rijnspoor depot where railway lines cross, smoke-blackened buildings — also green meadows, a cinder road and a sky in which the clouds are racing, grey with an occasional gleaming white edge, and a depth of blue where the clouds tear apart for a moment.’ Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, 31 July 1882.

A special presentation revolving around this purchase will be on view at the Van Gogh Museum until 10 July 2012.

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