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Faille, J[acob]-B[aart] de la

Date born:  1886

Place Born:  

Date died: 1959

Place died:

First author of a Van Gogh catalogue raisonné. De la Faille studied law at Utrecht University and participated in dramatic productions. He earned his doctor’s degree in 1913. Instead of working as a lawyer, however, he focused on the contemporary art scene and ethnographic topics, writing for various newspapers and magazines. He also wrote fiction. After reading a 1917 article “Over de literatuur over Van Gogh” (On the literature concerning Van Gogh) by the conservator Herman F. E. Visser (1890-1965) in De Beweging, de la Faille took up the idea, suggested by Visser, to write a critical catalog of the painter’s works. He was assisted in this by the van Gogh exponent H. P. Bremmer (q.v.). Faille joined the auction house of Frederick Muller in Amsterdam where he learned the art trade first hand. The four-volume L’Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh. Catalogue Raisonné appeared in 1928. Shortly after the publication, an article in Kunst und Künstler voiced suspicion regarding the authenticity of a number of cataloged paintings. De la Faille had to change his judgment and soon was able to single out a group of false Van Goghs that had the same provenance: the Berlin Art Gallery Otto Wacker. As an appraiser, De la Faille himself had been misled by Wacker and had to admit his mistakes. He then published a supplement to his catalog in which he made the necessary corrections. This case, however, required a more systematic and comprehensive study on Van Gogh falsifications. De la Faille took up this challenge in his 1930 publication, Les Faux Van Gogh, in which he used the method of juxtaposing authentic and false works with the same subject. In 1939 de la Faille published a completely revised and updated catalog of the Van Gogh Paintings, with an introductory biography of the artist by Charles Terrasse. De la Faille continued to work on a further revision of Van Gogh’s oeuvre. His death in 1959 left the manuscript unpublished. An editorial board of eminent art historians, appointed in 1962, took over the project, under the chairmanship of Abraham Hammacher (q.v.). In 1970 the revised, augmented and annotated edition of de la Faille’s catalog, The Works of Vincent van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings, was published. Another catalog appeared under his name in 1992, Vincent van Gogh: the Complete Works on Paper: Catalogue Raisonné, a revision of the 1970 edition section on the works on paper and a reprint of de la Faille’s 1928 French text on the drawings, watercolors and lithographs.  

Faille's approach was that of connoisseurship. De la Faille’s pioneering cataloging work on Van Gogh was inevitably not without errors, but his lasting impact is remarkable. His work was particularly criticized by Walter Vanbeselaere, whose 1937 De Hollandsche periode (1880-1885) in het werk van Vincent van Gogh, chided de la Faille’s 1928 catalog for its lack of a scientific basis. Even he, however, affirmed its value as “the starting point for all further research.”  In his lifetime his opinions were used to determine numerous van Gogh forgeries. MD

Home Country:  Netherlands

Sources:  "Dr Jacob Baart de la Faille: 1886-1959." in, de la Faille, J.-B. The Works of Vincent van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff International, 1970, p. 39; Hammacher, A. M. “Van Gogh and the Words” in The Works of Vincent van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff International, 1970, p. 25; “Dr Jacob Baart de la Faille 1886-1959” Ibidem, p. 39; Feilchenfeldt, Walter. ”Van Gogh Fakes: the Wacker Affair, with an Illustrated Catalogue of the Forgeries” Simiolus 19 (1989), 4: 289-316.

Bibliography:  L’Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh. Catalogue Raisonné. 4 vols. G. van Oest: Paris and Brussels, 1928; Les Faux Van Gogh. Paris: G. van Oest, 1930; Vincent van Gogh. New York: French and European publications, inc., 1939; The Works of Vincent van Gogh. His Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff International, 1970; Vincent van Gogh: the Complete Works on Paper: Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1992.