Thirty five years ago, a collector named Dirk Hannema found and purchased this painting because he was "absolutely certain" it was a Van Gogh. However, Hannema had been famously duped by a fake Vermeer, so nobody was going to take his word for it. This week, Le Blute-Fin Mill has finally been added to the canon of nearly nine hundred works of the world's most admired painter.
We all like to second guess the experts. If this is a Van Gogh, it certainly is an unusual one. When I first saw it--in reproduction, mind you; I haven't been to Amsterdam this week--I wasn't sure I liked it. It reminded me of the souvenir art that was commonly painted and peddled near Europe's landmarks.
But then I looked at the people. There's the stout woman in the foreground, painted with the same grays as the mill. There's the man in black descending the steps, possibly a veteran, with downcast gaze and clenched fist. There's the gaily clad woman next to him with a large hat, her dress unseasonably blue, white and green. There are the three figures in scarlet that form an equilateral triangle. I count eighteen people in all, each making a distinct impression upon me.
Next I noticed the spray of yellow foliage on the left, and the graceful branches reaching upwards: still leafed in the middle, but bare on the right. And there are the blades of the windmill, stark against the ivory sky. Somehow all this tells me that the visitors to this architectural attraction on this bleak autumn day are not young.
Van Gogh or no, I like this painting very much.
Le Blute-Fin Mill; 1886. Click on the picture for a closer look.