Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A new Van Gogh discovered

Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum on Monday unveiled a newly discovered landscape painting from the height of the Dutch master's career, abandoned for years as a forgery in a Norwegian attic. "Sunset at Montmajour," a large oil landscape from 1888, was unveiled to applause by the museum's director Axel Rueger as a "unique experience that has not happened in the history of the Van Gogh Museum."

Depicting a landscape of oaks in the south of France, the painting was brought to the museum from a private collection. Researchers set to work and authenticated it based on comparisons with Van Gogh's techniques, style, paint used and a letter he wrote on July 4 1888 in which he described the painting. It had been lying for years in the attic of a Norwegian collector who thought the painting was a forgery, after buying it in 1908. "This discovery is more or less a once in a lifetime experience," said researcher Louis van Tilborgh, who helped with its authentication.



Is it a masterpiece? Probably not, although I will never be able to see the original. But it does not stand up to the the incandescent paintings that he made in the last two years of his life.

In a July 5, 1888 letter to his brother Theo refers to the painting:

“Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill, and wheat fields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be more so, à la [Adolphe Joseph Thomas] Monticelli, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold. And all the lines were beautiful, the whole scene had a charming nobility. You wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see knights and ladies suddenly appear, returning from hunting with hawks, or to hear the voice of an old Provençal troubadour. The fields seemed purple, the distances blue. And I brought back a study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do.”



Zoomie said...

We just saw a program on art forgery on TV and I can't help but wonder if the very clever forger did this one... :-)

Namastenancy said...

I thought of that as well but this is documented in his letters - but you can never leave out the chance of forgery. But I think that a forger would have tried for something more brilliant, not this rather mundane painting. Even Van Gogh had a "bad painting" day once in a while.