Musée d'Orsay: Paul Van Ryssel Cholera Scene

Paul Van Ryssel
Cholera Scene

Cholera Scene. Memories of the1854 epidemic in the Jura
Paul Van Ryssel (1826-1909)
Cholera Scene. Memories of the1854 epidemic in the Jura
Oil on cardboard
H. 27; W. 35 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Scène du choléra. Souvenir de l'épidémie de 1854 dans le Jura [Cholera Scene. Memories of the1854 epidemic in the Jura]

Doctor Gachet, a collector and friend of the Impressionist painters, is mainly known nowadays for having brought Vincent van Gogh to Auvers-sur-Oise in May 1890, and for having helped him in his last days. However, his contribution as an amateur painter, for which he used the pseudonym Paul Van Ryssel, should not be forgotten. Despite the clearly modest approach of this work, it aroused the curiosity of the general public, intrigued by the personality of its author. Many of his paintings reveal aesthetic links with the artists he admired: Monet, Pissarro, Cézanne and Van Gogh, who finally inspired him to adopt a more colourful approach. This small painting reveals another established source - Amand Gautier, a follower of Gustave Courbet and childhood friend of Doctor Gachet.

While still a medical student in 1854, Paul Gachet went voluntarily to the aid of the victims of a cholera epidemic in the Aube and the Jura. Although he contracted the disease himself, he recovered, as did his friend Amand Gautier who had accompanied him. From the memories of this time, Gautier took up the subject from a painting presented at the 1887 Salon, Cholera morbus in the Jura 1854. The connection between the two compositions is significant and is confirmed by the similarity of the titles. The date of 1890 underlines the fact that it was painted from memory.
We do not know if this work preceded or followed Van Gogh's death on 29 July 1890, but this question adds to the interest of the painting.

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