A painting possibly made by a companion of Vincent van Gogh was recently purchased from a thrift store in southern Maine, and it could offer insight into the last months of the famed artist’s life.
The painting is thought to be a watercolor produced by Edmund Walpole Brooke, who had become a friend of van Gogh in the months before the artist killed himself, The New York Times reported.
It was discovered by Katherine Mathews, a self-described thrift store enthusiast, as she was perusing through Warehouse 839 in Saco. She purchased the piece for $45 in April.
The image is relatively small, measuring 13 by 19 inches, and shows a Japanese woman carrying a child on her back as she walks away from a small house that is surrounded by forest.
Kevin Keraghan, who owns Warehouse 839, acquired the painting around 15 years ago from the estate sale of a New Hampshire family, according to the newspaper. He originally had kept the watercolor in his house as decor, but told The Times that he decided to sell it when he was redecorating.
According to Tsukasa Kodera, a curator and professor of art history at Osaka University in Japan, Brooke had become a companion to van Gogh as the Dutch artist spent his last days in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise in France. Brooke’s work never reached the level of fame that van Gogh’s work did, but he has intrigued art historians because of his connection to van Gogh.
Kodera, who has dedicated a large part of his career to understanding the link between Brooke and van Gogh, told The New York Times that Brooke may have received letters, drawings or gifts of paintings from van Gogh.
Brooke, who was originally from Australia, moved to Japan and eventually started painting there. Kodera told The New York Times that much of Brooke’s biography is shrouded in mystery.
However, Brooke resurfaced in letters from van Gogh written to his brother, Theo, in which van Gogh writes that “[Brooke] has been here in Auvers for months, and we went out together sometimes, he was brought up in Japan, you would never think so from his painting — but that may come.”
According to the New York newspaper, van Gogh became intrigued by Brooke’s knowledge of Japanese culture and his style of painting, and even incorporated Japanese artistic influences into his work.
While the painting has yet to be verified as an original Brooke, Kodera believes that it could be authentic, and that it could lead to the possibility of understanding more about van Gogh’s last months.