Van Gogh was a life-long admirer of Charles-Franois Daubigny’s work. The celebrated landscape painter had lived in Auvers, and so when Vincent arrived in the village, he went to see Daubigny’s home and large garden at the first opportunity. This work shows part of the garden: Van Gogh later made two more, larger paintings of the overall site.
He did not have any canvas to hand, so he painted this work on a red and white striped linen tea towel, which he prepared with a bright pink ground layer of lead-white pigment mixed with red. The pink base was intended to create a vivid contrast with the green foliage laid on top of it. The ground layer is visible between the strokes of paint. The red pigment has faded over time, so that the pink base now looks light grey.
Vincent wrote to Theo after Daubigny’s death in 1878: ‘A work that is good — it can hardly last for eternity but the idea expressed in it can, and the work itself almost certainly continues to exist for a long time and, if others appear later, they can do no better than to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors and to do it the same way.’
In letters to his brother, Theo, Van Gogh mentioned Daubigny and his paintings numerous times. He had a Daubigny print, The Dawn (Cock crossing), hanging on the wall of his little rented room in Montmartre. In a letter to Theo from January, 1874, Van Gogh wrote that one of the painters that he particularly liked was Daubigny.
On March 3, 1878, Van Gogh wrote to Theo and discussed learning of Daubigny’s death,
“Uncle told me that Daubigny had died. I freely confess that I was downcast when I heard the news, just as I was when I heard that Brion had died (his Bénédicité hangs in my room), because the work of such men, if it is understood, touches us more deeply than one realizes. It must be good to die in the knowledge that one has done some truthful work and to know that, as a result, one will live on in the memory of at least a few and leave a good example for those who come after. A work that is good may not last forever, but the thought expressed by it will, and the work itself will surely survive for a very long time, and those who come later can do no more than follow in the footsteps of such predecessors and copy their example.”
When Van Gogh arrived, Daubigny’s widow still lived in the house she had shared with her husband and allowed Van Gogh to paint the garden in 1890. Van Gogh painted the enclosed garden three times between May and July, each painting titled Daubigny’s Garden.
The first was a small study of the garden. Van Gogh wrote to Theo saying,
“I am planning to make a more important canvas of Daubigny’s house and garden, of which I already have a little study.”
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Auvers-sur-Oise, France: June – mid month, 1890
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 765, JH: 2029