A new painting by Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered after two years of research to determine its authenticity, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said today.
“Sunset at Montmajour” (1888) -- painted during the artist’s time in the southern French city of Arles -- will be on display from Sept. 24 in the current “Van Gogh at Work” exhibition (ending Jan. 12), the museum said in a news release.
It was during the same Arles period that Van Gogh painted his “Sunflowers,” “The Yellow House” and “The Bedroom.”
“A discovery of this magnitude has never before occurred in the history of the Van Gogh Museum,” director Axel Rueger said.
The work is owned by private collectors who have asked not to be identified, the Van Gogh Museum said. They approached the museum in 2009 to request an expert opinion on the painting.
“Sunset at Montmajour” -- which in 1890 was still owned by Van Gogh’s brother Theo -- was sold in 1901.
Sometime around 1908, a Norwegian industrialist and collector named Christian Nicolai Mustad bought it, according to three Van Gogh Museum specialists writing in the October issue of Burlington Magazine.
Shortly afterward, Mustad showed the painting to a French diplomat who suggested it was either a fake or mistakenly attributed to Van Gogh. Mustad immediately put the painting in his attic, away from view.
After Mustad’s death in 1970, when his collection was valued for sale, the painting was labeled a fake, and changed owners several times, the article said.
When it was presented for appraisal to the Van Gogh Museum in 1991, the museum ruled it wasn’t a Van Gogh.
“It was regarded as an interesting picture, but not by Vincent,” said Van Gogh Museum Researcher Teio Meedendorp in an interview. “We couldn’t come up with who might have made it: It’s never been attributed to somebody else.”
Meedendorp (co-writer of the article) said the reason it wasn’t considered a Van Gogh was that “the location was not known and not recognized” by museum specialists. That location has since been identified: Meedendorp said he even found the spot where Van Gogh stood.
Speaking earlier at a news briefing streamed live by the Dutch Internet site www.at5.nl, Louis van Tilborgh, a senior researcher at the Van Gogh Museum (who also co-wrote the article), described the discovery as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
He said that when the museum was again asked for its view on the work, “it intrigued us from the beginning, and we decided to carry out a thorough investigation.”
Two years of research into the style, painting materials and context were conducted, and parallels were found with other Van Gogh works completed in the summer of 1888, he said.
The pigments are similar to those that Van Gogh used during his time in Arles, and include the discolorations that are a feature of his work, he said.
The work under expertise turned out to be “a picture that had been lost from sight for more than 100 years,” he said.
There are two letters by Van Gogh that refer to the painting, according to the museum.
In one of those letters -- dated July 5, 1888 -- Van Gogh indicated he wasn’t altogether happy with the finished work. Describing the “stony heath” he’d visited the previous day, he wrote, “And I brought back a study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do.”
To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri in London at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.