The Blacker Gachet I – Mark Alexander

Do you know what I am not a fan of? Just blocks of colour.  I can get on board with most art movements, and I feel I definitely give time to anything I see before I just dismiss it, but I don’t get works by people like Mark Rothko, where squares of colour appear on a canvas.  Possibly because I like things to have meaning, and just blocks of colour themselves, just leaves me feeling I could paint some squares and pass it off as abstract art… but then that wouldn’t be me on a page.

The Blacker Gachet I, could very easily, at a glance just be confused with a black square.  You need to really look at this to appreciate the detail which is actually present in this oil on copper creation.

Alexander, is deemed a bit of an enigma in the art world.  There are not huge amounts of his work in circulation, but his shows sell out quickly.  Some of Alexander’s work is on permanent display in the Centre Pompidou foundation in Paris.

The Blacker Gachet I is part of three works which are near identical.  The famous work of Van Gogh created in black on near black, drawing your eye to the detail of the emotion and structure to the piece rather than the colour of the original.

Alexander is known to take well known artworks and recreate the image in monochrome or distort the pieces giving a strange and sometime macabre feel to the pictures.

The original Gachet portrait of the sad and thoughtful physician became notorious after becoming the most expensive painting ever sold in 1990.


It then disappeared from the public eye, with the owner jokingly exclaiming that he wanted to be cremated with the painting.  Said owner died in 1996, but it is suspected that it was sold to a private collected after the death, rather than being burnt.

I actually find this an astounding feat, in portraying the doctor in just shades of black.  It’s a wonderful homage to the original piece and has been said to make the audience question value (both monetary and artistic) of the original.

What this does for me is make me think about how such a simple change alters the piece completely.  In the original, Gachet looks almost mournful, perhaps at the treatment and deterioration of the artist’s mind, where as the Alexander’s rendition of the piece makes the doctor look more thoughtful and contemplative.  Really making the audience look for the detail in what could be mistaken for a simple block of colour.

What do you think of this piece?  Why not tell me in the comments?  Like this post?  Why not share it?


8 thoughts on “The Blacker Gachet I – Mark Alexander

Add yours

  1. Definitely with you on blocks of color. I try to acknowledge the wide latitude that should be accorded to art and the act of creative expression. But many of Rothko’s works, as a good example, elude me.

    The monochromatic take on Gachet by Mark Alexander is interesting as a counterpoint to the original by van Gogh. This is a work that is undoubtedly better appreciated with a high resolution image or “in person”, which likely then comes across more strongly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shelley, by the way, I truly like the focus of your blog and style of commentary. Well done. (I would have noted this on your About page, but I don’t see a comment button there.). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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