The Portland Art Museum scored a coup this week. It received its first painting by Vincent van Gogh.
The Dutch artist painted “The Ox-Cart” in 1884. That was before he moved to France, where he painted the brightly colored “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night”.
As Colin Fogarty reports, the Portland Art Museum received this painting as a donation from a private collection.
The painting shows an ox pulling a rickety cart, surrounded by crows in a barren landscape. It’s dark but the sky glows.
Brian Ferriso: “Atmospheric, moody, simple, but yet complex.”
That’s how Brian Ferriso describes it. He’s the executive director of the Portland Art Museum.
For now, the Ox Cart is hanging in his office. It’s the only painting by Vincent van Gogh in any art museum in the Pacific Northwest.
Brian Ferriso: “Does he live up to the expectations? And I would say absolutely. This painting in particular I’ve had some people really excited about.”
Colin Fogarty: “I can almost hear it. I can almost hear the cart ricketying along, you know.”
Brian Ferriso: “Why van Gogh was so important is because he was the avant garde. He was inventing something new. We know that van Gogh was looking at this, touched this, felt this. And in some sense it provides our audiences with an opportunity to feel in the presence of that person.”
Ferriso says he doesn’t have an appraisal yet. But he estimates the painting is worth anywhere from 5 to 15 million dollars.
Brian Ferriso: “We could never afford this. There’s no way that we as a public institution have the acquisition funds to buy this. And I think that’s the case with many art museums. Really, the future collections of tomorrow are really based on people’s generosity of giving.”
The gift of “The Ox-Cart” comes from a private collection in a town not normally associated with great art – Roseburg, Oregon. Howard Sohn says his parents, Fred and Francis Sohn, have had the painting in their dining room since 1960.
Howard Sohn: “I don’t think people should be surprised that nice art hangs in all kinds of places. People that appreciate art live everywhere.”
Howard Sohn says his father fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and bought a timber operation in Roseburg in 1949.
The van Gogh painting came from Francis Sohn’s parents back east. Howard Sohn says the painting was his parents’ most valuable single item and they wanted it displayed so as to share it with Oregon.
Howard Sohn: “This was a major statement for their appreciation for Oregon and their desire to have a work like this to be available more broadly.”
The Portland Art Museum plans to reframe “The Ox-Cart” and get it on display next month, in time for Thanksgiving.