Why A Black Cat Deleted from Daubigny’s Garden?
The Daubigny’s Garden is painted by Vincent Van Gogh, which exists in Paris, France. There are three drawings of Daubigny’s Garden. One is in Basel, Switzerland, one is in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the other is in Hiroshima, Japan. We might be able to find what was Vincent’s intention through letters to Theo, Vincent’s younger brother. Why the black cat was once painted, and then vanished, today we will take a look into this mystery…
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Netherlands. Vincent’s paintings were sold only a few while he was alive. His younger brother Theo was his only supporter all his life.
Theo was the one who’d been always supported Vincent, and also an art dealer who had foresight. Van Gogh was heavily influenced by Japanese Ukiyo-e artists and inspired subsequent modern movements from Fauvism to Abstract Expressionism.
In 1880, at the age of 27, Vincent declared that he was going to be a painter after he failed to work as a missionary to help people.
By painting, he wanted to help people and be helped himself. Vincent began working on sketching vigorously, believed painting would give people love.
Vincent used an impulsive, gestural application of paint and symbolic colors to express subjective emotions.
His mental instability was destructive, but it provided the frenzied source for the emotional renderings of his surroundings and imbued each image with a deeper psychological reflection and resonance.
The Daubigny’s Garden, painted three times by Vincent van Gogh, depicts the enclosed garden of Charles-François Daubigny, a painter whom Van Gogh admired throughout his life.
Daubigny and Gogh
The Barbizon-school painter Daubigny was one of the artists Van Gogh greatly revered. In May 1890 Van Gogh came to the Parisian suburb of Auvers, where there was a garden that Daubigny had owned.
In 1878 Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo that he was very sad to hear the news that Daubigny had died because his work touched him very deeply,
A work that is good may not last forever, but the thought expressed by it will, and the work itself will surely survive for a very long time, and those who come later can do no more than follow in the footsteps of such predecessors and copy their example.
When Van Gogh came to Auvers in 1890 Daubigny’s widow still occupied their house. He painted Daubigny’s garden three times: twice with the entire enclosed garden on double-square canvas and an earlier study of a portion of the garden.
Daubigny’s Garden in Amsterdam
This is a portion of the garden now is in Amsterdam. Vincent made a little sketch of it for Theo, with a description:
In the foreground green and pink grass… In the center a rose bush, to the right a little gate… [and] a row of yellow lindens. The house itself is in the background, pink with a roof of bluish tiles.
Daubigny’s Garden in Bazel
Daubigny’s Garden with a black cat in it is at Kunstmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Van Gogh wrote in a letter dated 23 July 1890 to Theo,
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Auvers-sur-Oise, 23 July 1890 (www.webexhibits.org)
In both double-squares, the garden is furnished as a welcoming outdoor living space with a bench, table, and chairs.
In this painting a woman, cat, and blooming flowers bring life to the setting; in the second version of the painting, the cat is painted over.
The landscaped garden, the focal point, contains a rose bed in the foreground and is surrounded by trees. In the background is a large house and a church with a Romanesque steeple.
The beautifully manicured and landscaped Daubigny’s Garden elevated the posthumous reputation of Charles-François Daubigny as a successful, cultured man of Auvers.
Daubigny’s Garden in Hiroshima
Daubigny’s Garden without a black cat is at the Hiroshima Museum of Art in Hiroshima, Japan.
The painting in which Van Gogh described the sky as “pale green” is very similar to the first [Kunstmuseum Basel] double-square but lacks the black cat but was later painted over. Van Gogh painted vividly the garden in its early-summer fresh flowers and verdant grasses. This was two weeks before his death.
Before we get to our conclusion why a black cat is gone in the second version of Daubigny’s garden, let’s take a look at another painting.
Wheatfield with Crows was painted in July 1890, in the last weeks of Vincent’s life.
Often it is claimed to be the last paintings, while others claim Daubigny’s Garden is his final painting, of which we are uncertain.
Anyway, it depicts a dramatic, cloudy sky filled with crows over a wheat field. A sense of isolation is heightened by a central path leading nowhere and by the uncertain direction of flight of the crows.
The windswept wheat field fills two-thirds of the canvas. The crows were used by van Gogh as a symbol of death and rebirth, or of resurrection.
He wrote to Theo that he had made a point of expressing sadness, later adding
extreme loneliness (de la solitude extrême), but also says he believes the canvases show what he considers healthy and fortifying about the countryside (and adds that he intended to take them to Paris as soon as possible).
Is Black Cat Vincent?
Vincent knew that Theo’s supporting him cost his brother a lot.
Theo married to Jo Bonger and just had a new born baby, supporting his brother was no easy. Theo also supported their mother financially. Vincent sent Theo and Jo Almond Bloosom as a gift.
Here’s the hypothesis: Vincent had decided to take his life before he wrote to Theo the last letter. He wanted no more to be his younger brother’s burden.
The clearness and brightness in Daubigny’s Garden without a black cat depicted his feelings toward his decision. He shot himself in the wheat field but managed to survive for a few hours.
Theo rushed to be with his brother for the last hours. Theo was at the death bed of Vincent until the last moment. Vincent died on July 27th, 1890.
After six months Vincent’s death, Theo deteriorated his health and died on 25th January 1891 at the age of 33.
The man who loved his brother Vincent the most, tried even harder to sell Vincent’s paintings after his death, felt somewhat lonely when people began to appreciate Vincent’s works.
Theo’s Vincent is no more.
We couldn’t be helped but to think what if Vincent’s paintings were appreciated much earlier… Their fate would have been different.
Theo believed his brother Vincent was a great man with vast knowledge and understandings of human, everybody would realize his great talent in art and would be a great painter if he’d lived longer…
He proved he was right in his art dealing foresight as he collected Monet, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, Camille Pissarro even his boss at the time thought it was ridiculous.
And once again, he proved himself right about the foresight his brother would be a great painter.
But it’d have never achieved without his unconditional love and support for Vincent. They might have been seeing the same dream as Vincent would go out see and paint stars at night.
Vincent Van Gogh quotes (goodreads)
Henri Matisse Artwork and his Love for Cats and Doves
Cats in Hiroshige Blue: Ukiyo-e Artist’s Significant Cat Prints and Paintings
Hokusai: Cats in Ukiyo-e of A Man “Mad” about Drawing
Black Cat Brings A Good Luck?: A Lucky Omen in Japan
Picasso: Art, Bio, and his Cat “Minou”
Also published on Medium.