Van Gogh painting worth millions hung in Reading cafe

The painting's appearance was a shock to some of the cafe's customers

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A Vincent van Gogh painting worth millions has been displayed in a Reading cafe.

Houses at Auvers II was hung in the Picnic Cafe for about an hour to launch the Open for Art weekend festival.

The painting's owner Markus Lawrence inherited it from his grandfather, along with 200 other paintings, on the condition he would not sell them.

The 27-year-old director of the Reading Gallery is looking for a permanent home for his priceless collection.

Paintings worth millions

  • L'Homme Est En Mer sold for £16.9m in February 2014
  • L'Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux sold at auction in New York for more than $40m (£22m) in May 2006
  • A version of Sunflowers sold for nearly £25m in March 1987

Mr Lawrence said that in June 1890, shortly before his death, Van Gogh said he wanted to see his work hung in a cafe, and to his knowledge, this is the first time the artist's 124-year-old wish had been fulfilled.

"I feel a huge amount of pride, not for myself, more for Van Gogh. I know it's something that he really wanted to do before he died," said Mr Lawrence at the painting's cafe debut.

He added: "Sometimes in certain spaces in galleries it can take away what the painting's about, whereas here it's just a picture on the wall, but a picture by a very famous artist.

"I love opening the pieces to the public, people deserve to see them."



They say it's what he would have wanted.

But Van Gogh can't have imagined the day would come when people would jostle for position to catch a glimpse of one of his paintings in a tiny English cafe.

There's a great buzz with people laughing at how outrageous it is that a painting worth millions is adorning the wall.

Then, one by one, each punter breathlessly approaches it to take in its glory up close.

Some customers actually need it pointing out to them. One man responds with a "Crikey!" before remarking that it's a risky venture putting such a prized artwork in such a vulnerable position.

Houses at Auvers II, an oil on canvas, was painted in the last year of Van Gogh's life and it has been in storage for the past 30 years.

It was bought in the 1920s by Mr Lawrence's great-grandfather for 300 francs in Paris. He cannot put a specific figure on how much the painting is worth now.

On seeing the painting, Mark Webber, 29, from Reading said: "You feel stunned. I can see the multiple layers of paint. It's more vivid than I thought it was going to be, it boggles my mind."

Another cafe visitor, 44-year-old Caroline Streatfield-Chalk, described it as "vibrant" with lots of energy, "It's amazing to see it outside a gallery in an everyday space that people go to," she said.

Grandfather's wish

Mr Lawrence, from Reading, inherited the work and the collection, started by his family 200 years ago, when he turned 18.

His grandfather Vivian Wetten, an architect, died in 1980, and left them to his daughter's eldest son who turned out to be Mr Lawrence.

Other artists in his family collection, which is in storage, include Rembrandt, Picasso, Degas, Cezanne, Henry Moore and Dali.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh's self portrait
  • The Dutch painter was largely unappreciated in his lifetime
  • His artistic career lasted just a decade, cut short when he died aged 37 in 1890
  • He famously cut off part of his ear following a quarrel with artist Gauguin in 1888
  • He suffered from depression

By chance Mr Lawrence discovered what he believes is the fifth version of Edvard Munch's The Scream when he was removing a Victorian print from a frame.

"It was only when I took off the back paper to use the frame, because the print is horrible, I found The Scream," he said.

Two years ago he decided to start a gallery and is continuing his search for a venue in Reading.

He is hoping to raise £50,000 to fund the project to ensure the paintings are displayed together.

"I am trying to fulfil my grandfather's wish. He wanted the collection displayed as a whole," he said.

Open for Art, organised by Jelly, features workshops, pop up exhibitions and talks and runs from Friday to Sunday.

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