Vincent van Gogh painted his last masterpiece Tree roots in 1890 on a hillside in the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, as was recently discovered by the Institut Van Gogh. Experts suspect that the painter committed suicide shortly after finishing this painting.
The discovery was made by Wouter van der Veen, who works as a scientific director at the institute. He accidentally came across a postcard of the French village, which dates from the early twentieth century.
The map showed, among other things, a ridge covered with tree trunks and roots. Van der Veen showed this to two researchers from the Van Gogh Museum and a specialist in historical forests. Based on Van Gogh’s working method and the comparison between Tree roots, The postcard and the current condition of the hillside lead the experts to conclude that Van Gogh made his painting at this location.
“Everything that can be seen in this enigmatic painting finds an explanation based on what can be seen on the postcard and on the spot: the shape of the hillside, the roots, their mutual relationships, the composition of the soil and the presence of a steep limestone wall, “says Van der Veen. “The location is also consistent with Van Gogh’s habit of capturing motifs from his immediate environment.”
The found postcard of the French village, released about ten to twelve years after Van Gogh died. The card is combined with the painting Tree Roots. (Image: Arthénon)
‘Made last strokes late afternoon’
It was already known that Van Gogh spent the last seventy days of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise. He died in July 1890 of a suicide attempt. According to Van der Veen, this happened shortly after the painting was completed.
“The sunlight that Van Gogh painted indicates that the last brushstrokes were applied in the late afternoon, providing information on the layout of this dramatic day that ended with his fatal self-injury.”
After the lockdown in France, Van der Veen traveled to the hill edge to view it. The largest tree stump, which can also be seen in the painting, is still so recognizable. The place can be visited by local residents and tourists.
Tree roots, on display in the Van Gogh Museum. The abstract work is made with oil paint.
Are you thinking about suicide? You are not alone. Contact 113 Suicide Prevention at www.113.nl or call 113 (local rate) or 0800-0113 (toll free).