Discovery of an (almost) Unpublished Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh
Sunset at Montmajour, 1888
Oil on Canvas - 93.3 x 73.3 cm
Private Collection
Photo : Burlington Magazine

9/9/13 - Discovery - Private collection - Hidden away in an attic, a painting by Vincent Van Gogh was recently rediscovered and was just unveiled at the Van Gogh Museum. This Sunset at Montmajour painted in 1888 dates from the artist’s period in Arles. It belongs to a private collector who thought it was a copy. True, Daniel Wildenstein himself considered it as being most likely by a German artist and the Amsterdam museum to which the painting had been shown in 1991, had refused to attribute it to the master.

The Burlington Magazine of October 2013 will publish an in-depth article by Louis van Tilborgh on the painting and its history, in collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum. An analysis of the pigments, notably the presence of cobalt blue and the fading of some colors - the red and the yellow - seem to correspond to the master’s technique. Moreover, the work was listed in 1890 under number 180 with the title Arles (Sunset) 30 in the Catalogue of works by Van Gogh belonging to Theo, elaborated by Andries Bonger in 1890 ; not only do the subject and the size (the number 30 refers to the size of the canvas) correspond but also the number on the back.
Van Gogh himself described this painting in two letters to Theo in 1888, a description sometimes thought to correspond to Rocks, also from 1888 (Museum of Fine Art, Houston), despite some inconsistencies ; the artist in fact pointed out precisely the small oaks with the twisted trunks and the presence of ruins on the hill, which are not seen on the Houston canvas. Van Gogh chose a large canvas, meaning that he found the subject important, despite the disappointment he expressed at the final result in one of his letters.

This (re)discovery resulted in statements by the Van Gogh Museum and the Burlington Magazine. Should we treat it on our site ? Although the information received widespread coverage in the media, we thought it was necessary to do so as the canvas appears to be important and of fine quality but also because its attribution, now validated by Louis van Tilborgh, no longer appears to raise any doubts.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 10 septembre 2013

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