Van Gogh discovery causes media stir


March 03, 1991|By Anita Gold | Anita Gold,Chicago Tribune

No one knows just when or where a valuable antique o artwork might be discovered. That makes antique hunting exciting. You might even discover something valuable in your own home.

For instance, recently the media, both here and abroad, were abuzz with the news of an unrecorded Vincent van Gogh painting found in a home near Milwaukee. The discovery of the 16 1/4 -by-13-inch oil on canvas, entitled "Still Life with Flowers," was made by John Kuhn, a Wisconsin representative of the Leslie Hindman Auctioneer firm of Chicago, presided over by Leslie Hindman, who founded it in 1982.

Mr. Kuhn, after examining the painting signed with a "V" in the lower left-hand corner, had the piece examined and authenticated by renowned art experts. They gave the artwork their stamp of approval as a genuine Van Gogh that was painted by the master about 1886 or 1887. When the news broke that the painting was going to be offered at her March auction, Ms. Hindman found herself in a whirlwind of interviews on local and national TV news shows and by major newspapers. Ms. Hindman kept pinching herself to see if it was real, saying that she felt like "lady luck."

The painting (truly a beauty, portraying a fanfare of flowers in lilac, pink, plum, crimson and vermilion hues arranged in a silvery bulbous vase) reveals the sensitivity and soul of the artist.

The auction, which will consist of more than 1,400 lots, will be held at 1 p.m. March 10, 6 p.m. March 11 and 6 p.m. March 12 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, 215 W. Ohio St., Chicago, Ill. 60610. An illustrated catalog can be obtained by mail from the above address for $25 postpaid (it's $22 at the door). Absentee bids will be accepted for those who wish to bid on pieces from the catalog by phone or mail.

Items to be auctioned include fine American and European antique furniture; a large collection of Tang dynasty pottery and other Oriental works of art; a huge selection of African masks and figures including a Songe mask, Dan masks and Yoruba carved figures; and other outstanding artworks and antiques. They can be examined during exhibition hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 5 and 6, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 8, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 9. For information phone (312) 670-0010.

The Van Gogh was inherited by the current owner (who didn't check it out) in 1961 from a relative, Gebhard Adolf Guyer, a Zurich collector who purchased the work in the 1930s.

Other important artworks to be auctioned include a 21 7/8 -by-15-inch oil on canvas entitled "Jeune Femme Brune" by Amedeo Modigliani dated 1917, which portrays a young, brown-haired woman and is expected to fetch $700,000 to $900,000, and a color lithographic Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1892 two-sheet poster, measuring 54 by 37 3/4 inches, entitled "Eldorado Aristide Bruant," also expected to sell for a large amount.

And although the Van Gogh is estimated to bring $500,000 to $800,000, it's really anybody's guess as to how high the final bid will reach, depending on the peak of excitement that such a desirable painting generates.

It's interesting to note that Van Gogh's portrait of Dr. Gachet brought a whopping $82.5 million at a 1990 Christie's London auction, making it thus far the highest price ever paid for a Van Gogh. In 1987, Van Gogh's "Irises" brought $53,900,000 at Sotheby's in New York; and in the same year his "Sunflowers" brought $39,921,750 at a Christie's London auction and his "Le Pont de Trinquetaille" fetched $20,240,000 at Christie's in New York. A year later in 1988 his portrait of Adeline Ravoux was knocked down for $13,750,000 at a Christie's auction in New York.

When one stops and thinks of the astronomical sums such Van Goghs brought at auction, it is hard to believe that Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime.

Anita Gold can be reached by writing Anita Gold, Maryland Living, The Sun, Baltimore 21278. Selected questions will appear in her column. The volume of mail makes individual replies impossible. When writing sources listed in this column, enclose an addressed, stamped envelope for replies.

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