Dr. Paul Gachet, a homeopathic physician, treated Vincent van Gogh following his stay in Saint Remy. Van Gogh had moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to be closer to his brother’s family and in the hope that he would quickly recover in the north. Van Gogh rented a room at Auberge Ravoux near Dr. Gachet so he could be under his careful watch.
Their relationship developed beyond just a patient and doctor, the two became friends. Gachet even welcomed Van Gogh into his home for discussions and meals with his family. In June of 1890, he allowed his daughter, Marguerite, to pose for portraits by Van Gogh.
The two portraits, Marguerite Gachet at the Piano and Marguerite Gachet in the Garden, were painted when Marguerite was around 19 or 20 years old. In her fictional novel, The Last Van Gogh, Alyson Richman Berkley, suggests that Van Gogh and Marguerite were having a secret affair. There are many theories which suggest Van Gogh might have been fond of the girl, or perhaps she of him, and that perhaps the doctor kept them apart. However, there is no evidence to prove that this was true. Van Gogh never mentioned any affections or interests in his letters, nor is it known that she mentioned it.
Van Gogh wrote to Theo about the portraits on June 28, 1890 saying,
“Yesterday and the day before I painted Mlle. Gachet’s portrait, which I hope you will see soon; the dress is pink, the wall in the background green with orange spots, the carpet red with green spots, the piano dark violet; it is 1 metre high by 50 cm wide.
It is a figure that I painted with pleasure – but it is difficult.
He has promised to make her pose for me another time at the small organ. I will do one for you”
The painting of Marguerite in the Garden remained in the Gachet family until it was given to the Louvre in 1954 and is currently in the Musee d’Orsay. The painting of Marguerite playing the piano hung on her bedroom wall for 44 years until it was sold to the Kunstmuseum Basel in 1934.