In 1888, Vincent van Gogh painted Wheat stacks, a pastoral image of haystacks in a landscape, notable for its combination of textures and evocative use of yellow and blue. In the years that followed, the painting had a much less idyllic experience than the peaceful scene it depicts might suggest. This culminated in its plundering by the Nazis when Germany occupied Paris during World War II.
Now, Wheat stacks is expected to be auctioned as part of a larger Christie’s sale, focusing on the late Edwin Cox Impressionist collection. But as has been the case with a number of high-profile examples of looted art, the sale of this particular painting will be used for the purpose of restitution. It’s not a small amount of money either – Christie’s List for Painting estimates it will sell for between $ 20 million and $ 30 million.
A new article by Angelica Villa at ARTnews offers a good overview of the complex history of painting. In 1913, Max Meirowsky bought the painting, but had no other choice but to sell it in 1938. The following year, Alexandrine de Rothschild bought the painting but left Paris before the Nazis seized it; at that time, the painting was taken by the Germans. Cox bought the painting 40 years later.
As Villa writes, the money from the sale will go “to the heirs of Max Meirowsky, Alexandrine de Rothschild and to the representatives of the Cox estate”. The article also notes that Wheat stacks may well set a record for a van Gogh work on paper – yet another historic moment in a painting that already has a lot of history.
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