"I’ve made two studies of falling leaves in an avenue of poplars, and a third study of the whole of this avenue, entirely yellow." Vincent and Paul Gauguin to Emile Bernard. Arles, Thursday, 1 or Friday, 2 November 1888
Vincent painted, sketched and drew the avenue in Arles called Les Alyscamps several times in the fall of 1888. The avenue is lined with the ancient sarcophagi of romans, who often paid in advance to have their coffins shipped to these “Elysian Fields” of the then Roman Empire. Vincent, again, is more impressed with the current happenings and the emotion of the scene he encounters than the antiquities of Arles and its old Roman roots. And in this case, it is the avenue of poplars to which he refers with the tombs seeming more important for their color in the autumn than their place in history.
A V-shaped sky of greens and blues soars above the fiery orange and yellow leaves of the poplars. The ground is ablaze with the bright fallen leaves and Vincent is inspired with the whole scene – cooled only by the blues of the tombs, skies and clothes of the faceless figures walking the avenue. The tree leaves are created in mostly vertical thin strokes of yellow and orange and some greens similar to the foliage at the distant end of the path. His perspective is just off center of the avenue in this painting and he will change that perspective considerably as he captures the falling leaves of the coming days. Gauguin paints his Alyscamps work from outside of the avenue of poplars but the brilliant yellow of the autumn poplar leaves are common to both works.
Vincent paints this avenue several times in early November of 1888, just after Gauguin’s arrival. In this, one of the earlier paintings of the setting, he uses a 36 by 30 vertical canvas to enhance the height of the poplars which dwarf the figures walking between the long rows of them. Renditions of the scene over the following days will be horizontal, focus more on the figures he depicts on the lane, and be done on a heavy burlap canvas which Gauguin has purchased for painting the same scene. Vincent is excited his leader of the studio of the south has arrived in Arles to live with him. He is expecting 9 months of companionship instead of 9 weeks of their relationship following an arc which ends with nearly a week of pre-Christmas rain in Arles, Vincent suffering an episode and cutting off part of his ear after an argument with Gauguin and finally, Gauguin leaving for Paris. But for these early days of November, the two artists walk to the avenue of Les Alyscamps and set to work on their canvases and argue over the work of the artists they love until the wee hours of the morning in the Yellow House on Place Lamartine.
This painting sold at auction in New York, 2003 for over 11 million dollars.
This section from article in link above:
Bidders at high-profile, big ticket art auctions are usually careful to remain discreet and far from the action, placing their orders through agents on the phone. But the buyer of the top-priced artwork at Sotheby’s massive April 5 auction of impressionist and modern art placed his winning bid right from the room, paying $66.3 million for the Vincent van Gogh painting L’Allée des Alyscamps. His identity remains a mystery, as ArtNet News reported, but his very presence at the New York auction was notable:
He sat about halfway back in the room. In jeans and a hooded jacket, his attire was a departure from the business suit more typically worn by buyers. A Japanese dealer we spoke with after the auction said the buyer, whom he sat next to, was speaking Chinese on the phone but denied being Chinese.
The painting itself, of rows of poplar trees in autumn, was painted in 1888, a time Sotheby’s calls “the very moment in van Gogh’s career when his most legendary expressions of great beauty and exuberance were captured on canvas.” It was also completed a month before he sliced off part of his ear. The painting was originally estimated to go for $40 million.
During the auction, unnamed Asian buyers also purchased a Picasso for $29 million, and a Monet for $20.4 million, while an unnamed American also bought Monet’s “Nympheas” for $54 million, all above estimates. The entire auction raised $368 million, more than expected, and was Sotheby’s second-highest haul for impressionist and modern art after last November’s $422 million auction.
There are some interesting global financial dynamics at play. The overall art and antiques market reached record sales of €51 billion last year, spurred on in part by private collectors looking for alternate investments, as Quartz reported in March:
With financial markets and tax havens becoming more regulated, the 1% is increasingly relying on art and art fairs instead to store their cash. Then they stash the art away in a steadily growing number of grim looking art warehouses that blight the European landscape—often in Switzerland, but increasingly also in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Plenty of that cash is coming from China, where buyers purchased 22% of all global art last year. China’s ongoing crackdown on corruption means that the government is tracking wealthy citizens around the globe, including any high-profile real estate or asset purchases. That means the identity of the hoodie-wearing top buyer at last night’s New York auction is likely to be of interest far beyond the art world in the days to come.
“I’ve made two studies of falling leaves in an avenue of poplars, and a third study of the whole of this avenue, entirely yellow.”
Vincent and Paul Gauguin to Emile Bernard. Arles, Thursday, 1 or Friday, 2 November 1888
“These tree-trunks, like pillars, line an avenue where old Roman tombs coloured lilac-blue are lined up to right and left. Now the ground is covered as if by a carpet with a thick layer of orange and yellow leaves — fallen.”
Vincent To Theo, Arles, on or about Saturday, 3 November 1888.
Painting, Oil on Canvas – 91.7 x 73.5 cm – Size 30 figure
Arles: November, 1888
F: 569, JH: 1623
36 1/8 x 28 7/8 in. (91.7 x 73.5 cm.)
- $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
M. Aghion, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 29 March 1918, lot 13.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris.
Paul Vallotton, Lausanne.
Hans Mettler, St. Gallen, Switzerland (acquired from the above).
Mrs. A. Mettler-Weber, Zollikon, Switzerland (by descent from the above).
Private collection (by descent from the above).
Anon. sale, Christie’s, New York, 15 May 1985, lot 25.
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
Private collection, Japan.