8 Most Expensive Van Gogh Paintings Ever Sold

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Van Gogh did not start painting until 1881, 9 years before his death. Despite such a short career, he painted approximately 860 paintings and around 1,300 drawings. Though he was not successful in life, he has since become regarded as among the most influential (and expensive) post-impressionists.

Continue reading to learn about the subjects and the values of the 8 most expensive Van Gogh paintings ever sold.

8. Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat

Price (adjusted): $80.2 million
Year painted: 1890
Sold: 1997
Price when sold: $47.5 million
Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat
photo source: Wikipedia

Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat is not one of the paintings that historians know a lot about, though it is one of Van Gogh’s most valuable works of all time. It was painted in 1890 and the subject was reused in several paintings that year.

Since being painted, it has been purchased several times. Its most valuable single sale was in 1997 to Stephen Wynn of the Wynn resort. He paid $47.5 million, which makes it worth over $80 million in 2022.

Did you know?

Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat may be worth even more than the listed amount now. In 2005, Wynn sold the painting to Steven Cohen, the owner of the New York Mets for $100 million. However, the sale also included Bathers, a Gauguin painting.

Gauguin and Van Gough will be as inseparable throughout this list as they were in history. Gauguin also painted some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

7. Laboureur dans un champ

Price (adjusted): $89.9 million
Year painted: 1889
Sold: November 13, 2017
Price when sold: $81.3 million
Laboureur dans un champ
photo source: Christie’s

Laboureur dans un champ is a painting that Van Gogh did in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum, like many of the works on this list. It was the most recently sold of all these paintings, changing hands in 2017 for $81.3 million at a Christie’s auction in New York, which is $89.9 million today.

This painting is part of a series of wheat fields, including farmhouses, workers, poplars, and sunsets.

This series came after Van Gogh had been alienated from his painting for around a month and a half when he was going through mental health issues at the asylum. The doctors had to lock him out to ensure he wouldn’t work for a while.

He painted this field at different times of day and in different mental states. The most expensive of them is known as Laboureur dans un champ, or “Plowman in a field.”

Did you know?

In July 1889, Van Gogh suffered a fit of epilepsy that led to panic and disorientation. When it had been discovered that he had drunk some of his paints and kerosene, his doctor, Dr. Peyron, had to lock him out of the studio.

He wasn’t let back in until August. Historians believe that the first painting he did on his return was this one.

6. Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers

Price (adjusted): $94.6 million
Year painted: 1889
Sold: March 30, 1987
Price when sold: $39.7 million
Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers
photo source: Flickr

There are two famous paintings of sunflowers by Van Gogh done in 1889. One of these, known as Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers, sold at Christie’s London in 1987 for $81.3 million, the equivalent today of $94.6 million. At the time of its sale, this was the most expensive painting ever sold.

His earlier sunflower paintings, done in 1887, show flowers on the ground. The next ones are upright in a vase and dedicated to Gauguin, Van Gogh’s friend and rival. He painted them to decorate the guestroom of the house in Arles that he was staying in at the time, where Gauguin was scheduled to stay as well.

This is why the sunflower paintings are known as part of the series, “Decoration for the Yellow House.”

Did you know?

At the time, Gauguin was pressuring Van Gogh for the last of the sunflower paintings after receiving two as gifts. Van Gogh became upset at him and refused to give up the last one. In response, Gauguin gave him back a portrait he had done as well as the sunflower paintings.

5. A Wheatfield with Cypresses

Price (adjusted): $106.9 million
Year painted: 1889
Sold: May 1993
Price when sold: $57 million
A Wheatfield with Cypresses
photo source: Wikimedia Commons

A Wheatfield with Cypresses is a painting in a series of three that Van Gogh made in 1889. All three were first exhibited at the mental asylum Van Gogh was interned at in Saint-Remy in France. The paintings depict the Alpilles mountains, inspired by the view from Vincent’s asylum window.

This painting was made very soon after Van Gogh finished The Starry Night and is one of the works that Van Gogh himself loved. In a letter to his brother, Vincent described it as “a canvas of cypresses … a blue sky like a piece of Scotch plaid.”

In 1993, the painting was sold for $57 million, which adjusted for inflation is $106.9 million.

Did you know?

A Wheatfield with Cypresses was originally a drawing done with a reed pen, which is now on display in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Two versions exist in oil, one that is smaller and one that is about the same size as the drawing. The bigger one is the more expensive, now displayed in the National Gallery in London.

4. Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe

Price (adjusted): $118.9 million
Year painted: 1889
Sold: November 19, 1998
Price when sold: $71.5 million
Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe
photo source: Wikipedia

Van Gogh painted many self-portraits in the last years of his life. The most famous and expensive of these is Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (1889).

The title translates to “Self-portrait without beard” and is in contention with another, simply titled “Self-Portrait,” as potentially Van Gogh’s last self-portrait before his death.

His first self-portrait was done in 1886. This one is the most expensive, regardless of which was the last, and sold for $71.5 million in 1998. In adjusted dollars, this painting is worth $118.9 million.

Did you know?

After painting Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe, Van Gogh gave it to his mom as a gift. It was painted after Van Gogh shaved himself in Arles. It’s likely he was just admitted to the hospital after his ear was cut off since he was also shaved during the series of portraits known as the “bandaged ear paintings.”

3. Irises

Price (adjusted): $128.6 million
Year painted: 1889
Sold: November 11, 1987
Price when sold: $53.9 million
photo source: Flickr

Van Gogh made a series of nature works while staying at the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum starting in 1889. Irises was painted using flowers that were growing in the asylum garden in a style atypical of his usual intense form language.

Instead, the painting looks more like the Zen woodblock paintings of the ukiyo-e style in Japanese art. This can be seen in the soft, uniform lighting that stands in direct opposition to the more dynamic directional lighting of his other works.

Irises was bought for $53.9 million in 1987, which is $128.6 million in 2022 money.

Did you know?

Van Gogh did not consider this a finished painting. Rather, he called it a study for other works, which is why there are no known sketches for Irises. Despite this, Van Gogh’s brother put it in the annual exhibition for his brother’s work in 1889. It is now one of Vincent’s most famous paintings.

2. Portrait of Joseph Roulin

Price (adjusted): $131.2 million
Year painted: 1888
Sold: August 1, 1989
Price when sold: $58 million
Portrait of Joseph Roulin
photo source: Flickr

Van Gogh made a series of portraits for the Roulin family in 1888, the most valuable of which is the Portrait of Joseph Roulin, also known as the Portrait of the Postman. It was painted during a time when Van Gogh had trouble financing his works, so a family of willing models was a chance he couldn’t pass up.

This oil painting currently resides in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts. In 2020 dollars, the painting last sold for $131.2 million, costing $58 million in 1989.

Did you know?

Van Gogh became friends with the Roulins, and Joseph in particular, in the last years of his life in Arles. The family portraits gave him the ability to explore different age groups using his signature high-color imaginative style. They are now some of his most famous and expensive paintings.

1. Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Price (adjusted): $171.1 million
Year painted: 1890
Sold: May 15, 1990
Price when sold: $82.5 million
Portrait of Dr. Gachet
photo source: Flickr

The most expensive Van Gogh painting is Portrait of Dr. Gachet. He was a homeopathic doctor who shared residency in the Saint-Remy-de-Provence asylum with Van Gogh. He was Van Gogh’s doctor in the painter’s final years, painted into this now-infamous work in 1890, the last year of Van Gogh’s life.

There are several versions of this painting. The first is the most expensive, which sold for $82.5 million to Ryoei Saito in 1990, which is $171.1 million in 2022 money. It is not only the most expensive Van Gogh painting but one of the 20 most expensive paintings ever.

Did you know?

Since then, the most expensive version of Dr. Gachet has disappeared from the public eye. Version two was bequeathed to the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France. Van Gogh also made an etching of this painting.


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