It’s no big secret that 1956’s biopic of Van Gogh Lust for Life was the best art movie ever made. For his brief 12 minute appearance as Gauguin, Anthony Quinn received his second Academy Award for best supporting actor, it was that good.
Ironically, ten of the paintings used in the movie about the artist who famously only ever sold one painting in his lifetime, came from the William Weinberg collection. The year after Lust for Life screened Weinberg decided to put his collection on the market through Sotheby’s. The new Chairman Peter Wilson saw the potential of publicising the collection via the Van Gogh movie connection. Ad agency J Walter Thompson was brought on board to push the Hollywood glamour angle and scored the presence of Queen Elizabeth II at an auction viewing prior to the sale. When the auction was over nine of the pictures had sold at record prices including the highest price ever for a Van Gogh (Usines å Clichy). It was the beginning of 20th century art auction fever.
Image: Gauguin (Anthony Quinn) checks out paintings while Van Gogh (Kirk Douglas) waits for his response.