Lot 46
  • 46

Vincent van Gogh

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Le Moulin à l'eau
  • Oil on canvas
  • 23 7/8 by 31 1/2 in.
  • 60.5 by 80 cm


Anna Carbentus van Gogh-Carbentus, Nuenen & Breda (the artist's mother; left behind with her in 1884)

Janus Schrauwen, Breda (acquired from the above in 1889)

Jan C. Couvreur, Breda (acquired from the above on August 14, 1902)

Kees Mouwen Jr. & Willem van Bakel, Breda (acquired from the above in 1902-03)

Kunstzalen Oldenzeel, Rotterdam (acquired on consignment from the above)

Unger en Van Mens Art Gallery, Rotterdam

Private Collection, The Netherlands 

Sale: Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, April 25, 1966, lot 41

Douwes (sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, April 4, 1967, lot 18)

Samuel J. & Ethel LeFrak, New York (acquired at the above sale)

Thence by descent


Rotterdam, Netherlands, Kunstzalen Oldenzeel, Vincent van Gogh, January 1903, no. 2 (titled Watermolen)

's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, Noordbrabants Museum, Van Gogh in BrabantPaintings and drawings from Etten and Nuenen, 1987-88, no. 77, illustrated in color in the catalogue (titled Watermill at Coll)


R. Jacobsen, Onze Kunst, 1903, part 1, p. 115

Vanbeselaere, 1937, pp. 284, 330, 414

A. Tellegen, Museumjournal, 1968, pp. 117-22

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, L'Oeuvre de Vincent van GoghCatalogue raisonné, Paris, 1928, vol. 1, no. 48 bis, catalogued p. 25; vol. 2, no. 48 bis, illustrated pl. XIII

Marc Edo Tralbaut, Vincent van Gogh, New York, 1969, n.n., illustrated in color p. 137 (titled Kollen Watermill)

Jacob Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van GoghHis Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. F. 48a, illustrated p. 61 (titled Water Mill at KolNear Nuenen)

Jan Hulsker, The New Complete Van GoghPaintingsDrawingsSketchesRevised and Enlarged Edition of the Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Vincent Van Gogh, New York, 1980, no. 488, illustrated p. 114

Ingo F. Walther & Rainer Metzger, Vincent van GoghThe Complete PaintingsVolume IEttenApril 1881 - ParisFebruary 1888, Cologne, 1990, n.n., illustrated in color p. 40 (titled Water Mill at Kollen near Nuenen

Giovanni Testori & Luisa Arrigoni, Van GoghCatalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence, 1990, no. 46, illustrated p. 32

Jan Hulsker, The New Complete Van GoghPaintingsDrawingsSketchesRevised and Enlarged Edition of the Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Vincent Van Gogh, New York, 1996, no. 488, illustrated in color p. 114

Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten & Nienke Bakker, Vincent van GoghThe LettersThe Complete Illustrated and Annotated EditionVolume 3: Drenthe - Paris1883-1887, n.n., illustrated in color p. 153

Nienke Denekamp, René van Blerk & Teio Meedendorp, The Vincent van Gogh Atlas, New Haven & London, 2015, n.n., illustrated in color p. 96 (titled Watermill at Kollen

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1884, Le Moulin à l’eau was executed when the artist was living with his parents in Nuenen. On December 4, 1883, Van Gogh set off on foot from Drenthe for his parent’s house in Nuenen where, still in turmoil after separating from Sien Hoornik, a pregnant washerwoman with whom he had been closely involved, he sought to seek solace and re-evaluate his art: “I thought that being at home again might give me a more accurate insight into the question of what I should do” (letter 475). Many of his landscapes from this period depict dark and solitary buildings that appear to reflect the isolation he was feeling following the break-up. Van Gogh remained in Brabant for almost two years using his parent’s mangle room as a studio while closely studying the landscape and the impoverished local populace for whom he felt such sympathy. During this period Van Gogh also depicted peasants at work, particularly weavers, and the watermill’s connotations of labor is emphasized here by the inclusion of figures bent under sacks. Through this early work, the viewer bears witness to the machinations of a master painter in his formative years regarding both technique and subject matter.

Van Gogh’s Dutch roots had an immeasurable impact on his art. Since his arrival in The Hague in 1881, his technique was largely shaped by the styles of the myriad artists and schools that flourished in the region at the time, in particular The Hague School to which he was introduced by Anton Mauve, his cousin by marriage. He gradually developed a unique and evocative take on realism, further influenced by the French Barbizon school, English and Continental wood engravers and, most importantly, certain Dutch old masters. As George S. Keyes elaborates: “For Van Gogh these sources of inspiration intermingled and merged as he drew upon them to shape his own art. He could focus on each for its perceived modernity and topicality, yet also recognize how these sources could equally and simultaneously relate to the past. For him the Dutch old masters seemed truly modern, and Vincent conflated them and their supposed naturalism with that of the Barbizon and Hague Schools and with his own endeavors as an artist. The Dutch old masters represented something else of extraordinary significance to Van Gogh—a sense of the continuity of Dutch culture and a harking back to a truer, simpler world of shared values as opposed to the fragmented reality of modern, industrialized society. This was a utopian construct superimposed by Van Gogh on the tradition as he perceived it. The tradition as he chose to understand it focused on several themes: the edifying portrait; the peasant wedded to the agrarian tradition of the land as a mainstay of the social order; representations of landscape showing mankind in harmony with nature; and a perceived naturalism that expressed the truth. These points buttressed Van Gogh’s assumption that there is a continuum between past and present and enabled him to embrace traditional subject matters as a valid concern for modern art” (G. S. Keyes, Van Gogh Face to Face, The Portraits (exhibition catalogue), Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, 2000, p. 26).

Le Moulin à l’eau is mentioned in one of Van Gogh’s letters from May 29, 1884 to his friend and fellow Dutch artist, Anthon van Rappard where he writes, “Since you left I’ve been working on a Water mill – the one I asked about in that little inn at the station, where we sat talking with that man whom I told you seemed to suffer from a chronic shortage of small change in his pocket.  It’s the same sort of thing as the two other water mills that we visited together, but with two red roofs, and which one views square on from the front – with poplars around it.  Will be magnificent in the autumn” (letter 448).