Van Gogh letter, Washington painting in Sunflower sale Oct. 30

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – A letter from Vincent van Gogh and a painting of George Washington with his family are among the expected highlights of the Oct. 30 sale scheduled by Sunflower Auction Gallery. Other lots include a letter from Abraham Lincoln, a marble bust of the 16th president, and a significant grouping of Civil War objects.

The van Gogh letter – estimated at more than $250,000 – responds to the author of the only review of his work to appear in his lifetime. He expresses his gratitude to G. Albert Aurier and discusses his approach to painting, contemporary artists and his famed Sunflower paintings.

“Thank you very much for your article in the Mercure de France, which surprised me a good deal. I admire it very much as a work of art in itself, it seems to me that you paint with words; in fact, I encounter my canvases anew in your article, but better than they are in reality, richer, more meaningful … Anyway – what I am trying to say is that things seem to have mistakenly become attached to myvangogh-letter.jpg name that you would do better to link to Monticelli, to whom I owe so much. I also owe a great deal to Paul Gauguin …”

Vincent van Gogh’s signature on his 1890 letter to critic G. Albert Aurier.

The work of Adolphe Monticelli (1824-1886) had a profound effect on van Gogh, who was struck by the artist’s canvases in Paris when he arrived there in 1886. Van Gogh immediately adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, and later remarked, “I sometimes think I am really continuing that man.” In 1890, Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, were instrumental in publishing the first book about Monticelli.

Aurier’s glowing review of van Gogh’s work in the January 1890 issue of the Mercure de France asserted that although he had not “transcended his heritage,” he was not an “unworthy descendant of the old Dutch masters.” Van Gogh was rather uncomfortable with the praise lavished by Aurier, and his letter to the author was an exercise in artistic self-deprecation.

“You may realize now that your article would have been fairer and – it seems to me – consequently more powerful, if, when dealing with the question of the future of ‘tropical painting’ and the question of colour, you had – before speaking of me – done justice to Gauguin and Monticelli. washington.jpgFor the role attaching to me, or that will be attached to me, will remain, I assure you, of very secondary importance.”

Jeremiah Paul’s circa-1798 painting, George Washington Leaving His Family.

Jeremiah Paul’s circa-1798 painting, George Washington Leaving His Family, shows Washington and his wife Martha and his three adopted grandchildren after President John Adams’ administration appointed him Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army in 1798. The appointment was a reaction to France’s threat of war against the U.S., and resulted in France backing away from its threat, rather than face their former ally and hero of the American Revolution. The painting carries a presale estimate of more than $500,000.

The auction will be held at the Sunflower Auction Gallery, 7375 W. 161st St. in Overland Park. Absentee and phone bidding are available, and online via and eBay Live Auctions. For more information, call 913-239-8622 or visit