Rare Van Gogh painting of Paris up for auction

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"Street Scene in Montmartre" by Van Gogh has not been seen in public since its acquisition by a French fmaily in the 1920s.

One of the few paintings of Vincent Van Gogh still in private hands will be put up for auction on Thursday in one of the most anticipated sales of modern works this year.

"Street Scene in Montmartre" is the highlight of 33 works from masters including Degas, Magritte, Modigliani, Klee, Rodin and his muse Camille Claudel being sold in an auction streamed live by Sotheby's in Paris.

The 1887 work by the Dutch post-Impressionist master, one of more than 200 paintings he made during two years spent in Paris, portrays one of the windmills that dotted Montmartre when it was still just a village on the northern outskirts of the capital.

A couple stroll and two children play in front of a wooden fence and leafless trees depicted in the characteristic tan and brown tones of his "Dutch palette", punctuated by a bright red flag blowing above the mill.

The period marked a turning point in Van Gogh's career as he began exploring expressionist techniques and new uses of colour in the final years of his life, before his suicide in 1890 at the age of just 37.

It is estimated at five to eight million euros ($5.9 to $9.4 million) and while not considered one of his masterpieces, it could well fetch more -- the last Van Gogh sold at a public auction, "Labourer in a Field" from 1889, went for $81 million at a New York sale in 2017.

Specialists knew of the work but it was only catalogued as a black-and-white photograph and had not appeared in public since it was acquired by a French family around 1920.

"Paintings from the Montmartre series are rare: It's very likely to garner a lot of interest from private buyers, the major Van Gogh collectors all around the world, and probably from institutions as well," Aurelie Vandevoorde, Sotheby's head of Impressionist and modern art in Paris, told AFP.

Claudia Mercier, an auctioneer at the Mirabaud Mercier auction house that was hired by the painting's owners, said it had been examined by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, "which has shown serious interest in the work".

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