Van Gogh liked to draw in letters to his art dealer bother, his friends and fellow artists. The bookmark features the artist’s pencil drawings of three single figures. It was enclosed inside a copy of Histoire d’un Paysan Van Gogh sent to fellow Dutch artist and friend Anthon van Rappard (1858 – 1892) in 1883, with the message, “I do think you’ll find the Erckmann-Chatrian beautiful.”
Histoire d’un Paysan is an illustrated novel by Erckmann-Chatrian, the name used by French authors Émile Erckmann (1822–1899) and Alexandre Chatrian (1826–1890), nearly all of whose works were jointly written. The book details the French Revolution from the perspective of an Alsace peasant.
Rappard and Van Gogh had a falling out. In October 1884, Van Gogh sketched Rappard’s portrait. But only the top half of the work survives because in May 1885, after Van Rappard criticised Van Gogh’s lithograph of his painting The Potato Eaters, an upset Vincent chopped the portrait in half. The bottom half has been lost.
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