This oil painting titled ‘White House at Night’ by Vincent van Gogh is historic for many reasons.
It was long believed to be lost after World War II, a typical period in the history of art, when billions worth of art including paintings and sculptures were looted by the invading armies, not only from museums, but also from offices and homes of art collectors and others. It was seized by the soldiers of Soviet Russia during World War II and it was hidden for over 50 years. But the painting reemerged in an art exhibition in the Russian government owned Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in 1995, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
In 2001 two American astronomers and researchers asserted that the ‘White House at Night’ was painted by van Gogh around 8:00 PM on 16 June 1890 while he was in Auvers-sur-Oise, a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. The painting, apart from the White House and other surrounding objects, also depicts a bright yellow star which is Venus, according to the researchers Donald Olson, an astrophysicist at Texas State University-San Marcos and his research partner and physicist Russell Doescher. The researchers used a computer program to calculate the position of Venus, the exact timing of the day, date and year of the painting.
The Whitehouse at Night was painted six weeks before van Gogh’s death. It is one of the 76 paintings the artist completed during his 70 days’ stay in Auvers-sur-Oise before his death. Some of his best known works, including Portrait of Dr. Gachet which was recently auctioned for $84.5 million, were completed during these 70 days prior to his death, which according to a new book was a homicide while he was staying at Auvers-sur-Oise.
The painting is still owned and exhibited by the Hermitage Museum. Judging by the rates at which van Gogh’s works are being sold in actions now, the painting can fetch over $100 million if sold in an auction.