Cows, 1890 by Vincent Van Gogh

Dr. Gachet was friendly with a number of artists, including Camille Pissarro, who had recommended the doctor to Theo Van Gogh, Cezanne, Guillaumin, Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and others. He was a keen amateur painter, and had a large collection of paintings, prints and antiques, all of which were of tremendous interest to Van Gogh, especially in relation to his previous year spent in the asylum of Saint-Remy that was devoid of such treasures.

Amongst Gachet's works was a print of Cows by Jacob Jordaens, from which Van Gogh made this painting. The work is unresolved in composition, although it follows the original closely, and the forms are sketchy with an unnatural colour scheme that lends the painting a surreal effect. Van Gogh included a wheeling crow, which has something of an ominous presence, and was a motif that he used quite often in his final works. Cows was also an unusual choice for the artist, who rarely painted animals and certainly not in such close focus. Interestingly, there have been doubts raised about the authenticity of this work, although it remains attributed to Van Gogh.