Van Gogh painting worth millions hung in Reading cafe

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

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.

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."


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.

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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