A group of art historians has discovered the exact location where Vincent van Gogh painted his final masterpiece before his death in 1890.
When Wouter van der Veen, scientific director of the Institut van Gogh, found an early 20th-century postcard featuring a scene including tree trunks and roots growing on a hillside, he immediately sent it to a pair of senior researchers at the Van Gogh Museum.
Based on Van Gogh’s working habits and the comparative study of the famous Tree Roots painting beside the postcard, the experts concluded it’s ‘highly plausible’ that the correct location had been identified.
Wouter van der Veen said in a statement: “The sunlight painted by Van Gogh indicates that the last brush strokes were painted towards the end of the afternoon, which provides more information about the course of this dramatic day ending in his suicide.”
Teio Meedendorp from the Van Gogh Museum explained: “That this is his last artwork renders [the discovery] all the more exceptional, and even dramatic.
“He must often have passed by the location when going to the fields stretching out behind the castle of Auvers, where he painted several times during the last week of his life and where he would take his own life.”
Last spring, Van der Veen was actually able to travel to the site to verify his theory. The site is 150 meters from the Auberge Ravoux, the inn in Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh stayed the last 70 days of his life.
The Institut van Gogh, in co-operation with the local authorities, has erected a protective wooden structure to safeguard the site and allow for visits by the public.
Those who visit the peaceful town to follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh can now add another moving experience to their journey: Standing at the exact place where Van Gogh’s paintbrush last touched the canvas.