Marguerite Gachet at the Piano (1890)

When Van Gogh lived in Saint-Remy, he didn’t have much opportunity to paint portraits. He was very happy to move to Auvers, where Dr. Gachet welcomed him into his home for lively discussions. Dr. Gachet provided Vincent with models for his portraits. Vincent painted this portrait of Dr. Gachet’s daughter who was 21 at that time: Marguerite at the Piano. He wrote to Theo about this portrait:

“I painted Mlle Gachet’s portrait … the dress is red, and the wall behind her is green with orange spots. The carpet is red with green spots and the piano dark violet. I enjoyed painting her very much, but it was difficult.”

Vincent was interested in the contrast of the pink and greens of Marguerite’s dress, these were his colors for spring. He also used these colors in his wheat landscapes. He used a combination of brush strokes in this painting: long free strokes on the piano, dabs on the wall and thick strokes on the dress.

Vincent was aware of the fact that portraits were not very interesting for art collectors, but he found them very useful:

“I have always believed that paintings portraits can teach one to learn to think. It is what the collectors like least, but they are often useful and sometimes even enjoyable; almost like an old piece of familiar furniture, they remind one of former things.”

In Auvers, Dr. Gachet was Vincent’s only male sitter, his portraits were almost all of young women.

Current location: Kunstmuseum, Basel