Portrait of Dr. Gachet is one of the most revered paintings by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. It depicts Dr. Paul Gachet who took care of Van Gogh during the final months of his life. There are two authenticated versions of the portrait, both painted in June 1890 at Auvers-sur-Oise.
Both show Gachet sitting at a table and leaning his head on his right arm, but they are easily differentiated in color and style. In May 1990, the first version was sold at auction for $82.5 million ($154.5 million today).
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- There are two portraits – Both are called Portrait of Dr. Gachet and feature the same costume, melancholy expression, and head on hand pose. (However, they do include slightly different props.) Their canvasses are virtually the same size (26.4 inches by 22.4 inches) and they were both painted in 1890, the final year of van Gogh’s life.
- Van Gogh also made an etching of the doctor – Around the same time that he completing the two paintings, van Gogh also made his only attempt at an etching. There are 61 known prints from this etching, of which 14 are believed to be by van Gogh. The others are said to have been created after his death. The original copper plate is now in the collection of the Musee d’Orsay.
- Dr. Gachet was more than a muse – He was also a caretaker. An admirer of the Impressionist movement, Paul-Ferdinand Gachet was an amateur painter who palled around with Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, and Auguste Renoir. By trade he was a physician who championed the power of homeopathic cures and had an interest in palm reading.
- Van Gogh’s relationship with Gachet was tumultuous – In letters to his brother, Vincent alternately wrote of the doctor, “I have found in him a complete friend, even something like a new brother,” and“I think that we must not count on Dr. Gachet at all. First of all, he is sicker than I am … Now when one blind man leads another blind man, don’t they both fall into the ditch?”
- The doctor was also an inspiration to other artists – Ambroise Detrez, Norbert Goeneutte, and Émile Bernard also painted Gachet’s portraits. Charles Leandre did a caricature and Paul Cezanne painted The House of Doctor Gachet in Auvers.