Vincent often went to the Hôtel Drouot auction house on viewing days to look at the art. Some of the works he saw so impressed him that he mentioned them in letters. On 11 or 12 June 1875, for instance, he viewed a sales exhibition of 95 pastels and drawings by the French artist Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) from the collection of Emile Gavet. Vincent greatly admired Millet’s work and described how he felt walking into the Hôtel Drouot:
“Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”Read the complete letter
Years later, in 1883, Vincent wrote to his brother Theo of how glad he still was to have seen Millet’s drawings that day.
In early June 1886, Vincent and Theo went to the Hôtel Drouot for an auction of works from Paul Saulnier’s private collection. There, Vincent saw Édouard Manet’s Vase of Peonies on a Pedestal. In Arles in 1888, painting the fourth in a series of sunflower still lifes, he mentioned the technical simplicity of Manet’s painting in a letter. At the same auction, Vincent also saw Christ Asleep during the Tempest by Eugène Delacroix, whom Vincent greatly admired for his use of colour. He mentioned the painting – which he called a “powerful sketch” – in several letters. On 26 June 1888, he wrote to his friend Émile Bernard:
“Ah — E. Delacroix’s beautiful painting — Christ’s boat on the sea of Gennesaret, he — with his pale lemon halo — sleeping, luminous — within the dramatic violet, dark blue, blood-red patch of the group of stunned disciples. On the terrifying emerald sea, rising, rising all the way up to the top of the frame. Ah — the brilliant sketch.” Read the complete letter