Today there is something familiar, even comforting, about the thick, swirling, paintwork and vivid colours of Van Gogh. We tend to overlook the fact that when the Dutchman was toiling in the south of France he was doing things with paint that no one had ever done before. Here was a visionary who opened a whole new chapter in European art: expressionism. We also tend to forget that these works were the fruit of a mind tormented by mental illness and rejection.
Now, as we report today, Van Gogh's probable final work, The Fields, which he painted days before he committed suicide, has emerged on to the art market for the first time. The work of a man who sold only one painting in his life is likely to break records at auction next month. The Fields is the last work of a master. But its history also tells us something profound, and not entirely flattering, about our society's attitudes to art, illness and greatness.Reuse content