Dunes With Figures


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Dunes With Figures
Oil on canvas on panel
24 × 32 cm (9.5 × 12.5 in)
Signed in lower right: Vincent
Private collection
Bern
Switzerland
Europe
Painted August 1882, The Hague
F 3, JH 186

Dunes With Figures may be the earliest oil painting signed by Vincent, in his traditional manner using his first name only, this time placed in the lower right corner. It was once believed that the painting Lying Cow (F 1c, JH 389) was the earliest example of a signed oil painting, but the date of that work is now more certain to be in August of the following year, 1883.

Vincent signed his works with only his first name and told Theo to use only that name in catalogs and business dealings, and once gave the reason as being that the French people could not pronounce his name properly. But there were darker reasons for his disuse of his surname, as he wrote to Theo while living under the harsh moral rules of his parents in Nuenen, December 1883.

"I don’t ask you to intercede, I ask you for something more personal, I ask you frankly: how do we stand towards each other; are you a ‘Van Gogh’ too? I always regarded you as ‘Theo’. In character I’m quite different from the various members of the family, and I’m actually not a ‘Van Gogh’."
To Theo van Gogh, 8 December 1883

Vincent indeed was very different, an artist first and foremost in a family that placed ambition and career ahead of art.

See the painting A Girl in the Street, Two Coaches in the Background (F 13, JH 179) for more of Vincent's writings on his surname, and a link to audio clips of the proper Dutch pronunciation of his name.

PROVENANCE
A. Hahnloser, Winterthur (Purchased before 1913 from an anonymous Dutch miller);
H. R. Hahnloser, Bern (1970);
Private collection, owner unknown, Bern, Switzerland.