The last great portrait by Vincent van Gogh disappeared from the public eye three decades ago. The podcast series FINDING VAN GOGH traces the painting’s eventful history—to get to the bottom of the question: where is the masterpiece now?
When the Städel exhibition MAKING VAN GOGH opened its doors in October 2019, it featured some 120 works of art and—notably—an empty picture frame. This was the frame that originally held the “Portrait of Dr Gachet”, Vincent van Gogh’s last major likeness. The painting was once a highlight of the Städel collection—that is, until the Nazis confiscated it in 1937, declaring it a work of so-called ‘degenerate art’.
The “Portrait of Dr Gachet” shows the neurologist who treated Van Gogh. The expression and pose reveal the physician’s world-weariness and profound sense of melancholy. The artist painted the masterpiece just weeks before taking his own life. Today the painting occupies an iconic place not just in the history of art, but also in the history of the art market.
In 1990, exactly 100 years after its execution, the “Portrait of Dr Gachet” sold at auction for a record sum of $82.5 million. Its new owner purportedly expressed the wish that it be cremated with his body after his death. This statement turned out to be the stuff of legend: the painting wasn’t destroyed along with its owner’s remains after all. Nevertheless, it has vanished from public view and was last seen at that historic, record-breaking auction in 1990.
FINDING VAN GOGH is a 5-part podcast series—the first podcast to be released by the Städel Museum. In it, the journalist Johannes Nichelmann attempts to establish the whereabouts of the “Portrait of Dr Gachet” and traces its remarkable history. He meets with contemporary witnesses, art experts, and Van Gogh enthusiasts in Germany, France, London, New York, and Switzerland. They tell of the painting’s genesis and its history under National Socialism, and provide first-hand insights into the workings of today’s global art market.
The Historical Protagonists
FINDING VAN GOGH is a podcast series by the Städel Museum in collaboration with Johannes Nichelmann and Jakob Schmidt.
Authors and producers
Johannes Nichelmann and Jakob Schmidt
Sarah Omar, supervised by Pamela Rohde
Sarah Omar with Anna Huber
Alexander Eiling, Iris Schmeisser and Chantal Eschenfelder
Anna Borrero and Benjamin Yates
Jakob Schmidt (director and cinematographer)
Monopol Magazin für Kunst und Leben, Lage der Nation - der wöchentliche Politik-Podcast aus Berlin