A 121-year-old portrait by famed artist Vincent Van Gogh is now part of the permanent collection of the Des Moines Art Center. The piece is called “Man Smoking a Pipe.”
Art Center director Jeff Fleming says they’ve been looking for a piece from the Dutch post-Impressionist for years because he influenced much of the modern artwork the museum owns.
Fleming says, “This work and this artist is very important to have in the collection because it is part of the education of why we do what we do and it informs the rest of the collections so specifically and so potently.”
The portrait is from 1890 and features Van Gogh’s doctor, Paul-Ferdinand Gachet. Fleming says this piece is rare because it is the first of 60 prints made from the only etching plate Van Gogh ever created.
“It was produced just weeks before his death,” Fleming says. “His doctor was the individual who encouraged him to make the print. It is a portrait of him and it was his press that actually produced the work so there’s wonderful connections with the life of the artist and with the life of the subject of the portrait all merged beautifully together.”
Fleming says the print was purchased with funding set aside for the Art Center to acquire art from this time period. The price paid was not disclosed.