Hidden for a century, ‘fake’ is actually a Van Gogh

Hidden for a century, ‘fake’ is actually a Van Gogh

10:49pm EDT

A painting titled "Sunset at Montmajour" is seen in this handout photo received from The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A French landscape painting stored in an attic and kept from public view for a century because it was considered a fake is the work of Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh, a museum said on Monday citing new research. “Sunset at Montmajour”, which shows twisted holly oaks and a distant ruin bathed in the light of the setting sun, was painted in 1888 when Van Gogh was living in Arles, in the south of France. The work, owned by a private collector, will go on show at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam later this month for a year. Museum director Axel Rueger described the discovery of a new work by Van Gogh as “a once in a lifetime experience” as the painting was unveiled at a press conference on Monday.“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.

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.

But thanks to new research, including analysis of the pigments in the paint used and their discoloration, as well as letters from Van Gogh himself, the museum has changed its view.

In a letter to his brother Theo dated July 5, 1888, Vincent described the scene he had painted the previous day, but expressed his disappointment at the end result, writing: “I brought back a study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do.”

The work was later listed in one of Theo’s catalogues, and then reappeared in 1970 in the estate of a Norwegian industrialist, Christian Nicolai Mustad, 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.

Last updated: September 9, 2013 4:36 pm

Painting confirmed as forgotten Vincent Van Gogh work

By Matt Steinglass in The Hague

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has announced the discovery of a new work by Vincent Van Gogh, the first in the museum’s 40-year history.

The painting, entitled “Sunset at Montmajour”, was painted in 1888 and mentioned in an 1890 inventory of the Dutch master’s paintings and in two letters to his brother.

But it slipped from attention after failing to turn up during the 20th century and has never appeared in official catalogues of Van Gogh’s work.

“It’s extremely exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Axel Rüger, director of the museum, told the Financial Times. “In the whole history of the museum, we haven’t had a discovery of this calibre.”

Experts at the museum have spent the past two years verifying the painting’s provenance after it was brought in for examination by its owners, a family with a private collection. The museum declined to reveal any details about the owners for privacy reasons. But it did say they had brought the work in once before, in 1991.

Mr Rüger said no one at the museum knew why it had not been considered for inclusion in Van Gogh’s oeuvre at that time. One hypothesis, he said, was that the location depicted in the painting was unfamiliar. It shows a landscape near the village of Montmajour, on the outskirts of Arles, in Provence, that Van Gogh painted at other times, but from a different angle and including the ruins of an abbey which do not appear in his other works.

“Also, there are passages in the picture that are not as well resolved as in some of his other work, where you’re not entirely sure what it really depicts,” Mr Rüger said. “In one part of the painting he really seems to wrestle with the motif and lighting effects.”

Experts were able to verify its authenticity this time using scientific analysis of the canvas and pigments, which matched those Van Gogh used in the late 1880s when he was at the height of his creative powers. Other works from the same period include “The Sunflowers” and “The Yellow House”.

The painting is mentioned in two letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, who promoted and sold his work. It also appears in an inventory of Theo’s collection in 1890.

Mr Rüger said the definitive identification relied on the fact that the number 180 appeared on the back of the canvas, the same number used in Theo Van Gogh’s inventory.

“Sunset at Montmajour” will be displayed as part of the Artist at Work exhibition at the museum, which opens on September 24.

The announcement marks an upbeat moment in a year of mixed news for the Netherlands’ world-renowned museums.

Last month the American director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’s leading modern art museum, announced she would depart in December after a controversial three-year tenure. Ann Goldstein, formerly curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, was hired in 2010 to oversee a renovation intended to shake up an institution widely seen as stuffy and insular. But the new wing at the Stedelijk, which sits next door to the Van Gogh Museum, was savagely criticised by international architecture critics when it opened last year.

In July authorities in Romania announced that seven works stolen from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal modern art museum last year in one of the largest art heists in history had almost certainly been destroyed by the thieves. However, one of the suspects in the theft has since claimed that five of the works still exist.

On a brighter note, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh’s neighbour to the north, was widely praised for the quality of its decade-long renovation after it reopened in April.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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