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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."


Mme Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, the artist's sister-in-law, Amsterdam;[1] sold May 1909 to (J.H. de Bois [C.M. van Gogh, Mme van Gogh-Bonger's uncle by marriage], The Hague); sold 1909 to Carl Sternheim [1878-1942], Munich and later La Hulpe, Belgium;[2] traded 1909 to (Bernheim-Jeune & Cie, Paris).[3] (Jos Hessel, Paris). (Paul Rosenberg and Co., Paris). Georges Bernheim, Paris. Alphonse Kann [1870-1948], Paris, by 1917.[4] J.B. Stang, Oslo;[5] sold 3 January 1928 through (Dr. Alfred Gold [1874-1958], 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;[6] bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History


Possibly the first van Gogh exhibition, Ambroise Vollard, Paris, June 1895, no catalogue.
Ausstellung der Holländischen Secession, Weisbaden, 1903, no. 18, as Porträt eines jungen Mädchens.
Folkwang Museum, Hagen, 1905, no catalogue.
Schilderijen en Teekeningen door Vincent van Gogh, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1905, no. 121, as Jong meisje met bloem.
VII Ausstellung, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, April 1905, no. 10, as Junges Mädchen mit Blume.
Cent tableaux Vincent van Gogh, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1908, no. 52, La Fille à la fleur.
VII Ausstellung, Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 5-22 March 1908, no. 10, as Junges Mädchen mit Blume.
Vincent van Gogh, Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 1908, no. 52, as Junges Mädchen mit Blume.
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.
Masterpieces by Nineteenth Century French Painters, Alex. Reid & Lefevre, London, June 1929, no. 3A, repro.
Portraits of Women Loan Exhibition: Romanticism to Surrealism, Museum of French Art, New York, 1931, no. 21, as Portrait, Mlle. Gachet.
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, 1965, unnumbered checklist.
From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.


Natanson, Thadée. “Jean Carriès – Vincent van Gogh.” La Revue Blanche (June 1895): 572-573.
Vincent van Gogh: 40 Photocollographies d’après ses tableaux et dessins. W. Versluys. Amsterdam, 1905: no. 32 as Portrait de fille (Collection Mme van Gogh-Bonger).
Meier-Graefe, Julius. Vincent van Gogh. Munich, 1912: 49, repro.
Hagan, Oscar (introduction). Van Gogh Mappe. Munich, 1920: no. 14, as Junges Mädchen.
Meier-Graefe, Julius. Vincent van Gogh, a biographical study. 2 vols. Tranlsated by John Holroyd Reece. London, 1922: 2:repro. 94A.
Pfister, Kurt. Vincent van Gogh. Potsdam, 1922: repro. 31.
Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, catalogue raisonné. 4 vols. Paris and Brussels, 1928: 1:no. 431; 2:repro.
Gogh, Vincent van. Briefe an Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac und Andere. Basel, 1929: 44-45, repro. 48.
Jamot, Paul. "L'Art français en Norvège." La Renaissance 12 (February 1929): 94, repro.
Pfister, Kurt. Vincent van Gogh. Berlin, 1929: pl. 25.
Photogravure Picture Section. The New York TImes (15 September 1929): repro.
Art News 31, no. 34 (May 20, 1933): cover repro., as Portrait of Mlle Gachet.
Meier-Graefe, Julius. Vincent van Gogh: A Biographical Study. New York, 1933: pl. 58.
Rich, Daniel Catton. "The Exhibition of French Art "Art Institute" of Chicago." Formes 33 (1933): 383.
Recueil important des oeuvres de Vincent van Gogh. 2 vols. Tokyo, 1935-1936: 2:pl. 11.
Terrasse, Charles. Van Gogh, peintre. Paris, 1935: 109, repro.
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.
Sternheim, Carl. Vorkriegseuropa im Gleichnis meines Lebens. Amsterdman, 1936: 137, 165.
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: pl. 19.
Graber, Hans, ed. Briefe an Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, John Russell, Paul Signac und Anderer. Basel, 1941: repro. opposite 52.
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.
Schapiro, Meyer. Vincent van Gogh. New York, 1950: 59, repro.
Schapiro, Meyer. Vincent Van Gogh. London, 1951: 59, repro.
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.
Gandolfo, Giampaolo et al. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Great Museums of the World. New York, 1968: 141-142, color repro.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. 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.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 520, repro. 521.
Dorival, 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: Paintings, drawings, sketches. 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, 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.
Uitert, Evert van, Louis van Tilborgh, and Sjraar van Heugten. Vincent van Gogh, Paintings. Translated by Martin Cleaver et al. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Milan and Rome, 1990: 20, fig. 6.
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.
Gachet, Paul. Les 70 jours de van Gogh à Auvers : essai d'éphéméride dans le décor de l'époque (20 mai-30 juillet 1890), d'après les lettres, documents, souvenirs et déductions, Auvers-sur-Oise, 1959. Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône, 1994: 159, 318 (where dated around 25 June 1890), color repro XXVII.
Walther, Ingo F., and Rainer Metzger. Vincent van Gogh: Sämtliche Gemälde. 2 vols. Cologne, 1994: 2:389, repro.
Sternheim, Thea. Tagebücher 1905-1927. Die Jahre mit Carl Sternhaim. Mainz, 1995: 25.
Zemel, Carol. Van Gogh's Progress: Utopia, Modernity, and Late-Nineteenth-Century Art. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1997: 115-117, repro.
Lumpkin, Libby, ed. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art: European and American Masters. Rev. ed. Las Vegas, 1999: 104, repro.
Welsh-Ovcharov, Bogomila. Van Gogh: Provence and Auvers. New York, 1999: 110, repro.
Arlésienne : le mythe?. Exh. cat. Museon Arlaten, Arles, 2000: 178, repro. 43.
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.
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, and Peter Kort Zegers. Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South. Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Chicago and New York, 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.
Ives, Colta, et al. Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New Haven, 2005: 232, fig. 157.
Thomson, Belinda. Van Gogh Paintings: The Masterpieces. London, 2007: 108, repro.
Veen, Wouter van der. Van Gogh: A Literary Mind. Literature in the Correspondence of Vincent van Gogh. Zwolle and Amsterdam, 2009: 204, repro. 205.

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