Van Gogh work missing for century put on show
LONDON — A painting by Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered after two years of research to determine its authenticity, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said Monday.
Sunset at Montmajour (1888) — painted during the artist’s time in the southern French town of Arles — will be on display from Sept. 24 in the continuing Van Gogh at Work exhibition (ending Jan. 12), the museum said.
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 to request an expert opinion of the painting.
Sunset at Montmajour was, as of 1890, part of the collection of Van Gogh’s brother, Theo. It was sold in 1901, the Van Gogh Museum said.
Sometime around 1908, a Norwegian industrialist and collector named Christian Nicolai Mustad bought the work, 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 that 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 it repeatedly changed owners, the article said.
When it was presented for appraisal to the Van Gogh Museum in 1991, the museum ruled that it was not a painting by Van Gogh.
Speaking at a news briefing streamed live by the Dutch Internet site www.at5.nl Monday, Louis van Tilborgh, a senior researcher at the Van Gogh Museum, 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.