The National Portrait Gallery in London has discovered the first known photograph of Charles Obach, the manager of the Goupil Gallery in London, where Vincent van Gogh worked during a short-lived career as an art dealer. Van Gogh started working at the firm’s branch in The Hague in 1869 but got fired in 1876, after Obach informed the company’s owner that the young Dutchman was underperforming.
At first, the artist seemed to excel at Goupil. He was excited when his brother Theo also got a job at the company, congratulating him in a letter saying “it’s such a fine firm, the longer one is part of it the more enthusiastic one becomes.” But that was when the artist was still working at The Hague, making a respectable 50 Guilders a month helping pack paintings, etchings, and photographs. When he went to work for Obach in the company’s London warehouse, he complained to Theo that “the firm isn’t as exciting as The Hague branch.”
Before long, things had taken a turn for the worse. “Unfortunately Van Gogh turned out to be an awkward employee, lacking tact, and he was poor at dealing with customers,” wrote Van Gogh expert Martin Bailey for the Art Newspaper, announcing the discovery of Obach’s photograph. Van Gogh did a couple of stints at Goupil’s Paris office, in the hopes that location would be a better fit, but things didn’t work out. Based on Obach’s damning evaluation, Van Gogh was fired in January 1876, while working in Paris.
The loss of his gallery job was a pretty crushing financial blow to Van Gogh—living in poverty, he was forced to rely on Theo, who kept working as an art dealer, to make ends meet for the last 10 years of his life. But had Van Gogh not been fired, who can say whether he would have ever pursued a career as an artist.
Vincent Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters (1885). Courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Of course, it took a few more years for Van Gogh to find his true calling—before taking up a paintbrush, he taught in an English boarding school, worked briefly at a bookshop, and became a missionary, failing his entrance exam to study theology at the University of Amsterdam. Finally, in 1880, he moved to Brussels. There, Van Gogh studied with Dutch artist Willem Roelofs and attended the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, setting himself on the path to artistic greatness.
The portrait of Obach was taken in a photography studio in the 1870s. There are no known photographs of Van Gogh as an adult, just a single portrait of him as an adolescent, taken in 1870 when the artist was 19. (The notoriously camera-shy painter may have been captured in a group photographor twoover the years, but that’s never been proven.)
“I myself still find photographs frightful and don’t like to have any, especially not of people whom I know and love,” Van Gogh wrote in a letter to Theo, asserting his preference for painting since photographs “are faded more quickly than we ourselves, while the painted portrait remains for many generations.”
As for Ogden, he went on to open his own art gallery in London. Van Gogh saw him one final time, in The Hague in 1881. Went the artist died, his former boss wrote Theo a letter offering his “heartfelt condolences on this distressing occasion.”
Hong Kong Plaza 282 Huaihai Zhong Road, Huangpu District Shanghai, China
Local interior architecture firm Robot 3 Studio has lent its minimally-styled hand to a new coffee atelier in the heart of Shanghai. Adding to the slew of coffee shops across town, which number thousands, making your design mark in this caffeinated city is a tall order (and I don’t mean a latte).
While the west increasingly turns to herbal teas, (MUJI is opening up a matcha pop-up in London next week), Shanghai is warming its hands with mugs of Joe. Starbucks placed its largest ever store in Shanghai in December 2017, and a new one opens every 15 hours across China. But smaller coffee ‘boutiques’ (as Robot 3 Studio dubs this one) are also on the rise; with countless cold-brew, hand-pour and other-such ‘hip’ concoctions bubbling away across millennial-propped countertops city-wide.
Time More – the coffee appliance manufacturer behind this new wooden retreat inside Hong Kong Plaza in the Huangpu District – brings an exacting design-eye to proceedings. Founded in 2012 by ‘several coffee lovers’, the press note claims Time More to be ‘the best original hand-washed coffee appliance in the country’. Indeed, Time More is best known for its hand-held appliances that allow for cafe-quality coffee at home or on the go; a Red Dot Design award adds weight to its self-accolade.
If personalised coffee on the go is the big sell for Time More, what could be the benefit of opening a bricks and mortar (in this case, copper and wood) store? More than a simple shop, the new Time More location is a ‘Hand Brew Coffee Experience Center’, where visitors can pour their own coffee, to their own exacting standards using Time More products, under the guidance of a trained Barista.
The environment in which the coffee is brewed is crucial, too. ‘We understand this store as a world about "time",’ Robot 3 Studio explains. ‘Coffee beans are alive, making, grinding, extracting, and every step of a cup of coffee requires patience and concentration. We’ve created a quiet world; time is quietly flowing here. The space is developed in a binary way, moving and static, just and soft, inside and outside, positive and negative. This gives the entire space a certain tension.’ Tension, it seems, that’s unwound by the perfect hand-pour. §