Overview

The intention and determination that inform Van Gogh's art can be obscured by the sensational legends that have arisen about his life. The artist's correspondence, particularly from his brief mature period of 1888 to 1890, contradicts popular lore and attests to the deliberateness, sensitivity, and integrity of his work.

On July 29, 1888, Van Gogh wrote his younger brother Theo, an art dealer in a Parisian gallery, that "if you know what a 'mousmé' is (you will know when you have read Loti's Madame Chrysanthème), I have just painted one. It took me a whole week...but I had to reserve my mental energy to do the mousmé well." Van Gogh’s literary source was a popular novel from the period, whose story of a French man’s affair with a Japanese girl reflected the French fascination with Japanese culture. One of the book’s protagonists, a young, pretty Japanese girl, was called a mousmé in the author’s parlance, which Van Gogh took as his inspiration for this portrait of a young Provençale girl. The carefully modeled face and the vigorous linear patterns of bold complementary colors that describe the girl are stylistic devices that express Van Gogh's sympathetic response to his young sitter. In several descriptions of the painting Van Gogh mentioned the oleander buds in her hand. The significance of the flowers is unclear but may be related to the artist's pantheistic beliefs in natural cycles of birth and renewal.

Van Gogh wrote that La Mousmé was one of a group of portrait studies that were "the only thing in painting that excites me to the depths of my soul, and which makes me feel the infinite more than anything else."

Inscription

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Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Mme J. van Gogh-Bonger, the artist's sister-in-law, Amsterdam; sold May 1909 to (J.H. de Bois [C.M. van Gogh], The Hague); sold 1909 to Carl Sternheim [1878-1942], Munich and later La Hulpe, Belgium. [1] (Bernheim-Jeune & Cie, Paris). [2](Jos Hessel, Paris). (Paul Rosenberg and Co., Paris). Georges Bernheim, Paris. Alphonse Kann [1870-1948], Paris, by 1917. [3] J.B. Stang, Oslo, until 1928; [4] sold through (Dr. Alfred Gold, Berlin) 3 January 1928 to (Alex Reid and Lefèvre, Ltd., Glasgow and London) on joint account with (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 21 May 1929 through (Galerie Étienne Bignou, Paris) to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; [5] bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1903
Ausstellung der Holländischen Secession, Weisbaden, 1903, no. 18
1905
Folkwang Museum, Hagen, 1905, no cat.
1905
Schilderijen en Teekeningen door Vincent van Gogh, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1905, no. 121
1905
VII Ausstellung, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, April 1905, no. 10
1908
Cent tableaux Vincent van Gogh, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1908, no. 52
1908
VII Ausstellung, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 5-22 March 1908, no. 10
1908
Vincent van Gogh, Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 1908, no. 52
1917
Französische Kunst des XIX. u. XX. Jahrhunderts, Zürchner Kunsthaus, 1917, no. 108, as Fillette d'Arles.
1929
First Loan Exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1929, no.75, repro.
1931
Portraits of Women Loan Exhibition: Romanticism to Surrealism, Museum of French Art, New York, 1931, no. 21, as Portrait, Mlle. Gachet.[possibly; there has been confusion as to whether this, or more likely Girl in White (1963.10.30) was exhibited]
1932
The Taste of Today in Masterpieces of Painting before 1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as Mlle Gachet, no. cat.
1933
A Century of Progress, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 382, repro., as Portrait of Mlle Gachet.
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
2010
From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Bibliography

1910
Meier-Graefe, Julius. Vincent van Gogh. Munich, 1910: 49, repro.
1928
Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, catalogue raisonné. 4 vols. Paris and Brussels, 1928: I: no. 431; II: repro.
1929
Pfister, Kurt. Vincent van Gogh. Berlin, 1929: repro. pl. 25.
1933
Art News XXXI, no. 34 (May 20, 1933): cover repro., as Portrait of Mlle Gachet.
1933
Rich, Daniel Catton. "The Exhibition of French Art "Art Institute" of Chicago." Formes 33 (1933): 383.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 302, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 302, repro.).
1936
Bulliet, C. J. The Significant Moderns and Their Pictures. New York, 1936: repro. no. 54.
1937
Scherjon, W. and Jos. de Gruyter. Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers sur Oise (Complete Catalogue). Amsterdam, 1937:84, no. 55, repro.
1938
Pemberton, Murdock. "Ambassador to Art." Esquire (February 1938): repro.
1939
Faille, J.-B. de la. Vincent Van Gogh. New York and Paris, 1939: 330, no. 431, repro.
1939
Slocombe, George. Rebels of Art, Manet to Matisse. New York, 1939:plate 19.
1942
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 76, repro.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 178, color repro.
1944
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1944: 76, repro.
1944
Jewell, Edward Alden. French Impressionists and their Contemporaries Represented in American Collections. New York, 1944: repro. 157.
1953
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1953: 86, repro.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 58, repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 102
1959
Evans, Grose. French Painting of the 19th Century in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Two in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 36, color repro.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 19, color repro. 17.
1961
d'Angelis, Gaston. Gauguin, Paris, 1961:46, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 274, repro.
1965
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 125, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 59
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:466, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 52, repro.
1970
Faille, J.-B. de la. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970: no. F431, repro.
1973
Pickvance, Ronald. "The new de la Faille." The Burlington Magazine 115 (March 1973):179.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 156, repro.
1976
Borival, Bernard, "Ukiyo-e and European Painting" in Dialogue in Arts: Japan and the West, Chisaburo F. Yamada, ed. Tokyo and New York, 1976: repro. 45
1979
Watson, Ross. National Gallery of Art. London, 1979: 120, pl. 106, color repro.
1980
Hulsker, Jan. The Complete van Gogh. New York, 1980: 344, no. 1519, repro.
1984
Kodera, Tsukasa. "Japan as Primitivistic Utopia: van Gogh's Japonisme Portraits." Simiolus: Netherlands quarterly for the history of art 14, no 3/4 (1984): 189-208, repro. fig. 6.
1984
Pickvance, Ronald. Van Gogh in Arles. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984:156, fig. 41.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 516, no. 777, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 180, repro.
1988
Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Vincent van Gogh & Paul Cassirer, Berlin. Amsterdam, 1988:94
1989
Kodera, Tsukasa. Vincent van Gogh: Christianity versus Nature. Philadelphia, 1989:64, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 239.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 198, repro.
1992
Sund, Judy. True to Temperament: van Gogh and French Naturalist Literature. Cambridge, 1992:178, repro.
1993
Heijbroek, Jan Frederik. Kunst, kennis en commercie: de kunsthandelaar J.H. de Bois (1878-1946). Amsterdam, 1993: 195, repro.
1994
Walther, Ingo F. Vincent van Gogh: sämliche Gemälde. 2 vols. Cologne, 1994: II:p. 389
1997
Zemel, Carol. Van Gogh's Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late-Nineteenth-Century Art. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1997: 115-117, repro.
1999
Arlésienne: le mythe?. Exh. cat. Museon Arlaten, Arles, 1999: 178. repro.
1999
Welsh-Ovcharov, Bogomila. Van Gogh: Provence and Auvers. New York, 1999:110, repro.
2000
Dorn, Roland. "The Arles Period: Symbolic Means, Decorative Ends," in Van Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits. Exh. cat, The Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000:repro. 143.
2000
Van Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits. Exh. cat. Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000: 152, 219, fig. 143.
2000
Sund, Judy. "Famine to Feast: Portrait Making at St.-Rémy and Auvers," in Van Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits. Exh. cat. Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000:183-227.
2001
Childs, Elizabeth. "Seeking The Studio of the South: Vincent van Gogh, Gauguin, and Avant Guard Identity," in Vincent van Gogh and The Painters of The Petit Boulevard. Exh. cat. Saint Louis Art Museum, 2001: 120-134, repro.
2001
Druick, Douglas W. and Peter Kort Zegers, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South. Exh. cat. Art institute of Chicago; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2001: 126-128, repro.
2001
Jirat-Wasiutyriski, Vojtech. "Van Gogh in the South." in Antimodernism and Artistic Experience, Lynda Jessup, ed. Toronto, 2001:185, repro.
2002
Stolwijk, Chris, and Han Veenenbos. The account book of Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger. Amsterdam and Leiden, 2002: 52 (17/12), 127 (92/10), 149, 172 no. F 431 JH 1519.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 368-369, no. 303, color repro.
2007
Thomson, Belinda. Van Gogh Paintings: The Masterpieces. London, 2007:108, repro.

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