In the final days before his death from a fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wound, Vincent van Gogh was diligently painting new scenes in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, where he made his final painting. Called Tree Roots, the painting he was working on hours before he died depicts a vivid jumble of branches and trunks clinging to a bright yellow slope. Now, according to new information uncovered by researcher Wouter van der Veen, the exact location depicted in van Gogh’s final painting has evidently been discovered with the help of a postcard dating from somewhere between 1900 and 1910. The postcard found by van der Veen features a slope cluttered with overgrowth in Auvers-sur-Oise that bears overwhelming similarities to Tree Roots.
Additionally, van der Veen’s theory has been validated by researchers at the Van Gogh Museum and by Bert Maes, a dendrologist who specializes in historical vegetation. Van der Veen had obtained the postcard when he borrowed the extensive historical postcard collection of a 94-year-old French woman named Janine Demuriez. The pertinent postcard of the slope is “not a secret hidden document that nobody can find,” van der Veen explained to the New York Times. “A lot of people have already seen it, and recognize the subject, the motif of tree roots. It was hidden in plain sight.”
A senior researcher at the Van Gogh Museum named Teio Meedendorp also explained to The Guardian that the spot depicted in the postcard is only 150 meters away from Auberge Ravoux, the inn where van Gogh spent the last few months of his life. “The overgrowth on the postcard shows very clear similarities to the shape of the roots on van Gogh’s painting,” Meedendorp told the Guardian. “That this is his last artwork renders it all the more exceptional, and even dramatic. He must often have passed by the location when going to the fields stretching out behind the castle of Auvers, where he painted several times during the last week of his life and where he would take his own life.”
Now that the last location van Gogh elected to paint has been discovered, there’s no doubt that fans of the artist will try to visit the spot themselves and attempt to see what he saw. For those interested in learning more, van der Veen’s research is available to download in e-book form for free.