Houses at Auvers

The Hafspajen cartel's article start for Vincent van Gogh's 1890 painting Houses at Auvers  is discussed  on our C1cada page. Aaij singled it out as an example of C1cada's disruptive editing. Weller also edited at the article and we don't doubt that C1cada's exposé  of the article's pretensions and manifest errors led to C1cada's blocking. Those errors include the Did You Know (DYK) fact that the house was a peasant's cottage and a prominent statement in the lede that many of Vincent's Auvers paintings revisited the theme of peasant life and their cottages. In fact the house belonged to a stonemason and not one of Vincent's Auvers paintings represents peasant life.

C1cada made some good humoured observations about the article's deficiencies on its Talk page, commencing with a discussion of its DYK. He went on to make a considerable expansion of the article, faithfully preserving such that was of value in the existing article. On this page we examine the development of the article by Hafspajen's cartel and then concentrate on the origin of the ludicrous DYK fallacy. As readers might expect by now, that was down to Hafspajen's uncritical reading of a blog post.

We can start by looking at the state of the article following the last edit by the cartel (in fact by Weller). We copy the lede below:

The main house pictured here, which still exists today, belonged to a stonemason. The two houses to the left are farmhouses. Auvers farmers owned their own land and were affluent and progressive members of the community. 

Auvers was a prosperous tourist  resort by Vincent's time. Its  peasantry had long since been emancipated. The only "peasants" remaining were itinerant workers hired at harvest time, and these were accomodated in dormitories on the farms.

Of the many paintings Vincent executed in his final Auvers days, not one  represents peasant life or their cottages. 

They didn't even have chimneys

The first thing an educated native speaker of English can scarcely avoid noticing is the barely literate nature of the article, and this despite the attentions of Fat Eric, Wikipedia's master copy editor. We shall look at "peasant life and their cottages" in a moment, but it's worth considering now the "grass-covered huts" of the last sentence in the lede. The two houses to the left of the central house of the painting are substantial farmhouses, not "huts", and they are thatched  and not covered in grass. Of the no less than four  offered citations for "grass-covered huts", the first is from the holding museum and in fact refers to "thatched roofs", the second is a reference to an irrelevant letter of Vincent's dating from before he moved to Auvers dealt with by C1cada on the article Talk page, the third is from the well-known website run by David Brooks and is entirely specious as the page is simply an index of Vincent's Auvers paintings, while the fourth, similarly specious, is from a magazine article about Vincent's experience in the Borinage some ten years before. "Grass-covered huts" is a good example of the serial misrepresentation of sources routinely indulged in by the Hafspajen cartel. It was corrected by the editor Awien (not associated with us) who supported Coat (rather more diplomatically than Coat we have to concede) in Coat's effort to check Woodrich's obsessive crusade to have Paul Chabas' pedophile fantasy September Morn  highlighted as a Featured Picture. "Grass-covered huts" is not really a question of incompetent language skills. Hafspajen was at pains to reinforce her DYK nomination that the houses were peasant cottages. 

He cut off his ear!

There is a second matter we notice over and over again in the Hafspajen cartel's editing which we can't really find words to express, but roughly put it's the overwhelming urge to educate us in the bleeding obvious (at some length). This is a group of editors who are very anxious indeed to wikiplain (trying for a new neoligism there, Sue) to a presumed ignorant world that, for example, Leonardo da Vinci was one of the great masters of the Renaissance, or that Artemisia Gentileschi was an extremely determined woman,  or that Vincent van Gogh was a very tortured individual, and so on. It's a kind of conversion hysteria new Wikipedia editors go through almost as a rite of passage and so far we haven't really got our heads round it. We'll look at Hafspajen's example ("During the years of his short life...", you can almost feel it coming can't you ?) later. Right now we can usefully look at editor Corinne's example here in the Biographical background section:

In fact inspection shows none of these sources has been consulted. They either aren't cited in the first place, or are trivial or spurious, or copied from other articles. We can detail them as follows:

* Barr: This is simply a catalogue of van Gogh paintings, available as a Google book, and one of five  offered citations for the holding museum.
* de la Faille: The citation is copied from Farms near Auvers and is used incorrectly to say F750 echoes F793, whereas in fact de la Faille at p. 303 compares F793 with F806  (same location). The cartel missed on what anyone consulting these works would have picked up immediately, that Houses at Auvers F759 is the same location as that in Thatched Cottages in Auvers F780.
* Hulsker: Not cited at all
* Maurer: Available as a Google book and as noted above a spurious citation for Corinne's "the inner spirituality of man and nature" quotation.
* Pickvance: Available as a Metropolitan Museum download . Used merely to cite that the painting has been exhibited all over the world. If the cartel had actually consulted the pages 234- 235 they cite, they would have discovered that the house had previously been painted by Cézanne, that it  belonged to a stonemason and that it was the same location as F780 we mention immediately above.
* Van der Veen & Knapp: Cited twice as sources for paintings. The first is copied from Thatched Cottages and Houses  and the second from Farms near Auvers.  If the cartel had actually consulted van der Veen & Knapp, they would have been better able to present the old chestnut that Vincent sold only a single painting in his life as along the lines noted by C1cada on the Talk page (essentially he sold all his paintings to his art dealer brother Theo in return for a stipend to support himself).
* Walther: Not cited at all.

In reality the cartel's article was sourced entirely from the web. It's quite plain none of their editors had any expertise in van Gogh paintings, or for that matter any significant knowledge of them let alone pleasure in studying them.

Je suis Hafspajen, queen of queens, douche of douches

We turn now to "peasant life and their cottages". In our C1cada page, our editor (Marinka) said this was due to the editor 7&6=thirteen. It's true that this editor brought "peasant life and their cottages" into the lede in preparation for its DYK nomination, but the origin was an edit by Hafspajen shortly after she created the article. We shall look at that in a moment, but it's instructive first to look at  7&6=thirteen's sourcing.

When 7&6=thirteen brought it into the lede, he at first provided a source only for the 77 Auvers paintings assertion. This was David Brook's site. He later provided two sources for "the peasant life and their cottages" assertion. These are [A] and [10] you see in the snapshot of the lede above and neither were Hafspajen's original source. [A] is a note quoting the holding museum website, but it doesn't support "peasant life and their cottages" (it merely talks about a cluster of dwellings), while [10] is a magazine article devoted to Vincent's earlier experience as a lay preacher in the coalmining Borinage district of Belgium before he vowed to become an artist. It is true that the article avers that Vincent retained his interest in cottagers to the end at Auvers, but the Borinage cottagers were miners and not peasants and the article doesn't imply that the Auvers cottagers were peasants (in fact they were landed farmers, prosperous and progressive members of the Auvers community, such peasantry as there ever were at Auvers long since emancipated). It's slightly amusing to note, as Marinka did, that "cottaging" is Brit slang for the unconventional use of public toilets by gay men and that 7&6=thirteen began his distinguished career at Wikipedia outing celebrity cottagers.

This is the link to Hafspajen's original edit, the contents of which we snapshot below (they are two separate passages and the second does not run on from the first):

The first is Hafspajen's effort at wikiplaining the bleeding obvious we mention above (remember you heard "wikiplaining" from us first), while the second is Hafspajen's casual invention of the peasants' huts in Auvers. Both are sourced from a blog published by a Czech art enthusiast. As noted above, Hafspajen shouldn't be using blogs as sources and perhaps for this reason in her citation she strives to disguise it as a production of the Van Gogh Museum (the title of the blog page is "Vincent van Gogh and Auvers-sur-Oise".

But the real problem is not that Hafspajen is citing a blog, but that she wilfully (it's got to be wilful) misrepresents it. The blog itself is a decent effort at profiling Vincent's Auvers period. There's no way it support Hafspajen's manipulations.

We can deal first with "short life". The blog  does indeed start with a couple of paragraphs reflecting on Vincent's nature, but these are not of an encyclopaedic nature and Hafspajen's expansion is plainly problematic. For example, there is a problem with "imagination" (this was Gauguin's thing, rejected by Vincent) while the "added to his mental illness" is an invention of Hafspajen's we have not seen anywhere else (since it's absolutely not clear what the illness was, one can scarcely speculate usefully what might have added to it). As so often happens, the bleeding obvious is not necessarily bleeding right and needs careful sourcing if it has to have any educational value.

As for "peasants' huts", Hafspajen is simply talking through her front or back passage as the case might actually be. The blog unfortunately does make a mistake at one place with "hut" as a translation of the French word chaumière and Hafspajen seized it uncritically. C1cada dealt with it on the Talk page.

Aaij and Weller, shit of shit, jism of jism

Hafspajen's cartel might have the potential to make some  valuable edits. But so long as they venerate Hafspajen in the way they do, are apparently afraid to correct her manifest nonsense and to stand up to her, we can see no future for them and that especially while Hafspajen's excesses are protected by Aaij and Weller in the way they do.

C1cada did Wikipedia a service in editing at Houses at Auvers. It's a disgrace he was blocked by Aaij and Weller for his trouble and yet further evidence of the overwhelmingly toxic nature of Wikipedia's community as presently managed by Aaij and Weller.  

Originally this was started as an Influence section with the edit summary Added additional paraphrased material,  but without troubling to provide the sources (the citations we see above were added later). The trouble is the bleeding obvious is not always bleeding right. There's actually quite a lot of stuff there that needs citing. In particular Wikipedia guidance  enjoins us to source quotations such as "the inner spirituality of man and nature", and indeed editor 7&6=thirteen, who by this time had taken over the maintenance of the article,  added a 'citation needed' template. A couple of hours later, he himself provided one, comically misattributed to a certain duo "Maurer and van Gogh".  It's the last [14] of the four citations we see above and it's available as a Google book where page 62 is quoted and linked in the citation. But when you turn to it, you don't really see a verification of Corinne's edit we quote, not really. It's all about what drove Vincent to paint in the South of France and it's not the source for "the inner spirituality of man and nature".

What 7&6=thirteen undoubtedly did was search the internet for the quote. A search on "van Gogh the inner spirituality of man and nature" brings up Corinne's original source. It's a blog and although she effectively paraphrases it, she shouldn't have used it. That's because blogs are not usually Reliable Sources, whose special character is that they are subject to peer review and that's not the case here. 7&6=thirteen's problem was that he coudn't cite it, so instead he chose the fourth hit down in the search results and cited that instead. Of course that's not satisfactory and note it has the effect of making Corinne's edit a plagiarism as the real source is not acknowledged. The whole thing is discussed on the Talk page here (the real source is acknowledged) in a discussion which makes Hafspajen's pretensions very clear indeed:

But there's worse to come regarding the proper citation of Corinne's edit. There are three other citations provided, but when you look at these they have absolutely nothing to do with Corinne's edit. [2] is a link to the holding museum's website, [3] a link to (of all things) the holding museum's provenance report, while [4] is a link to the Google Art Project site used to download the image. So how did that come about?

Well, it so happens that the opening sentence of the lede had accumulated some 10 citations. Hafspajen was of the opinion that was too many. So what she did was she took the last 6 of them and distributed them round the article elsewhere. That's better!

Why bother with books when you've got the internet?

The final matter we should certainly comment on is actually quite critical becase it basically implies the article is essentially a fraud, or at any rate an unacceptable deception. Looking at the article (we mean as the cartel left it following Weller's last edit) we can see a fairly impressive looking list of sources: