In The Dunes

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In the Dunes
Oil on paper on panel
33.5 × 48.5 cm (13.25 × 19.125 in)
Private collection
Painted August 1883, The Hague
F 15a, JH 393

Nearing the end of his time in The Hague, Vincent painted this landscape near Loosduinen, a small village only a short steam train ride out of The Hague. He was also nearing the end of his relationship with Sien Hoornick, a prostitute and unwed mother, who was pregnant with another man's child. While this love affair created much strife in his family it also gave him some domestic bliss which he craved and was never to find again. He drew and painted passionately and it seems he felt his mortality more sharply than others, writing to his brother Theo, "Not only did I start drawing relatively late, but on top of that I can’t count on living for a great many years." He then becomes more specific, "I believe I may assume the following without being too hasty: that my body will endure for a certain number of years come what may — a certain number, say between 6 and 10." He died seven years after this letter was written.
To Theo van Gogh, circa 7 September 1883

While this painting does not show the powerfully expressive Post-Impressionist style we recognize as quintessentially van Gogh, there is a turbulence and energy that hints at what is to come, and perhaps reveals some of the emotional trauma Vincent was experiencing in his life.

The letters to Theo are as important in some ways as Vincent's artworks, and the letters from his time in The Hague reveal an interesting fact in that he created upwards of seventy oil paintings in this period, of which only twenty-four have been catalogued thus far, including some known only through old photographs. He painted this piece a few weeks after the letter to Theo, then took them all with him to Nuenen, but left them there when he moved to Antwerp. Over the years following his death the artist’s mother and family lost track of many of these paintings.

On 5 November 2014 Christie's auctioned the painting to a private bidder for US$1,805,000, $305,000 more than the high end sales estimate.

Landscape With Dunes

Oldenzeel Art Gallery, Rotterdam (1904);
H. Sythoff, Wassenaar, Netherlands (by 1937);
Mrs. A.M. Sythoff-Burgerhour, Wassenaar, Netherlands (by descent from the above, 1960);
Anon. sale, Van Marle en Bingell, The Hague, 21 May 1963;
Private collection, Netherlands;
The Weldon Collection, London;
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 4 December 1968;
Mrs. Philip D. Armour, Palm Beach and Lake Forest;
Brook Street Galleries, London;
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1969);
Trosby Gallery, Inc., Palm Beach (acquired from the above, 1969).
Private collection, Denver;
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1975);
Trosby Galleries, West Palm Beach (acquired from the above, 1977);
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert W. Vanden Brul, Rochester;
Private collection, (acquired from the above by the present owner, December 1989.