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."
Marks and Labels
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. (Bernheim-Jeune & Cie, Paris). (Jos Hessel, Paris). (Paul Rosenberg and Co., Paris). Georges Bernheim, Paris. Alphonse Kann [1870-1948], Paris, by 1917. J.B. Stang, Oslo, until 1928; sold 3 January 1928 through (Dr. Alfred Gold, Berlin) 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; bequest 1963 to NGA.
- Ausstellung der Holländischen Secession, Weisbaden, 1903, no. 18
- Folkwang Museum, Hagen, 1905, no cat.
- Schilderijen en Teekeningen door Vincent van Gogh, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1905, no. 121
- VII Ausstellung, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, April 1905, no. 10
- Cent tableaux Vincent van Gogh, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1908, no. 52
- VII Ausstellung, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 5-22 March 1908, no. 10
- Vincent van Gogh, Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 1908, no. 52
- Französische Kunst des XIX. u. XX. Jahrhunderts, Zürchner Kunsthaus, 1917, no. 108, as Fillette d'Arles.
- First Loan Exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1929, no.75, repro.
- 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]
- The Taste of Today in Masterpieces of Painting before 1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as _Mlle Gachet_, no. cat.
- A Century of Progress, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 382, repro., as Portrait of Mlle Gachet.
- The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
- From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Meier-Graefe, Julius. Vincent van Gogh. Munich, 1910: 49, repro.
- Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, catalogue raisonné. 4 vols. Paris and Brussels, 1928: 1:no. 431; 2:repro.
- Pfister, Kurt. Vincent van Gogh. Berlin, 1929: repro. pl. 25.
- Art News XXXI, no. 34 (May 20, 1933): cover repro., as Portrait of Mlle Gachet.
- Rich, Daniel Catton. "The Exhibition of French Art "Art Institute" of Chicago." Formes 33 (1933): 383.
- Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 302, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 302, repro.).
- Bulliet, C. J. The Significant Moderns and Their Pictures. New York, 1936: repro. no. 54.
- 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.
- Pemberton, Murdock. "Ambassador to Art." Esquire (February 1938): repro.
- Faille, J.-B. de la. Vincent Van Gogh. New York and Paris, 1939: 330, no. 431, repro.
- Slocombe, George. Rebels of Art, Manet to Matisse. New York, 1939:plate 19.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 76, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 178, color repro.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1944: 76, repro.
- Jewell, Edward Alden. French Impressionists and their Contemporaries Represented in American Collections. New York, 1944: repro. 157.
- French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1953: 86, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 58, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 102
- 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.
- 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.
- d'Angelis, Gaston. Gauguin, Paris, 1961:46, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 274, repro.
- Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 125, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 59
- 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.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 52, repro.
- Faille, J.-B. de la. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970: no. F431, repro.
- Pickvance, Ronald. "The new de la Faille." The Burlington Magazine 115 (March 1973):179.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 156, repro.
- 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
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 120, pl. 106.
- Hulsker, Jan. The Complete van Gogh. New York, 1980: 344, no. 1519, repro.
- 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.
- Pickvance, Ronald. Van Gogh in Arles. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984:156, fig. 41.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 516, no. 777, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 180, repro.
- Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Vincent van Gogh & Paul Cassirer, Berlin. Amsterdam, 1988:94
- Kodera, Tsukasa. Vincent van Gogh: Christianity versus Nature. Philadelphia, 1989:64, repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 239.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 198, repro.
- Sund, Judy. True to Temperament: van Gogh and French Naturalist Literature. Cambridge, 1992:178, repro.
- Heijbroek, Jan Frederik. Kunst, kennis en commercie: de kunsthandelaar J.H. de Bois (1878-1946). Amsterdam, 1993: 195, repro.
- Walther, Ingo F. Vincent van Gogh: sämliche Gemälde. 2 vols. Cologne, 1994: II:p. 389
- Zemel, Carol. Van Gogh's Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late-Nineteenth-Century Art. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1997: 115-117, repro.
- Arlésienne: le mythe?. Exh. cat. Museon Arlaten, Arles, 1999: 178. repro.
- Welsh-Ovcharov, Bogomila. Van Gogh: Provence and Auvers. New York, 1999:110, repro.
- 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.
- 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.
- Van Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits. Exh. cat. Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000: 152, 219, fig. 143.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jirat-Wasiutyriski, Vojtech. "Van Gogh in the South." in Antimodernism and Artistic Experience, Lynda Jessup, ed. Toronto, 2001:185, repro.
- 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.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 368-369, no. 303, color repro.
- Thomson, Belinda. Van Gogh Paintings: The Masterpieces. London, 2007:108, repro.
Work of Art
Work of Art
- Event Name
- March 1–June 1
- Mon, Tues, and Wed at 1:00
- March 5, 2012 at 2:00
March 7, 2012 at 4:00
- East Building, Auditorium
- Name of docent
- 60 minutes
- Registration for this event begins on April 1, 2012 at noon.
- Download the program notes (100k)
- Italian Collection