FROM TRASH - TO TREASURE: First declared fake, lost Van Gogh painting declared genuine
After spending years in Norwegian attic, authentic painting unveiled for press
Left neglected for many years after being pronounced a forgery back in 1928, a French painting kept hidden away in a Norwegian attic can now rightfully take its place among other masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh.
Entitled "Sunset at Montmajour," the painting depicts a dry landscape of oak trees, bushes and sky, painted with Vincent Van Gogh's familiar thick brush strokes as rendered by his palette knife.
Axel Rueger, the director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam declared that the long-lost painting was neglected these many years as it was considered a lowly forgery. Rueger now calls the discovery "a once in a lifetime experience" as the painting was unveiled at a press conference.
Owned by a private collector, the painting will show at the Van Gogh Museum later this month for one year. Museum experts said the painting was authenticated by Van Gogh's letters, the style and the physical materials used.
Art historians also traced the painting's history, and "Sunset" can in fact be dated to the exact day it was painted. Van Gogh described the artwork in a letter to his brother, Theo, and said that he painted it the previous day, July 4, 1888.
Using new techniques of chemical analysis of the pigments used, the findings indicated that they were identical to others Van Gogh used on his palette at Arles, including his typical discolorations. These findings came after an extensive two-year investigation.
An X-ray examination of the canvas also showed that it was of the same type Van Gogh used on other paintings from the period.
"What makes this even more exceptional is that this is a transition work in his oeuvre, and moreover, a large painting from a period that is considered by many to be the culmination of his artistic achievement, his period in Arles," Rueger said.
The painting certainly had a checkered history. As recently as 1991, the Van Gogh Museum had concluded that the painting was not by the Dutch artist when contacted by the owners of the work for an opinion.
Later listed in one of Theo's catalogues, the painting reappeared in 1970 in the estate of Christian Nicolai Mustad, a Norwegian industrialist, who had collected the works of Edvard Munch.
The Mustad family believed the painting had been bought by Mustad in 1908 but that he was advised later on that it was a fake or wrongly attributed, and banished it to the attic.
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