Van Gogh por­trait is . . . a Van Gogh

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - News - MIKE CORDER IN AM­S­TER­DAM

Af­ter years of doubts about its au­then­tic­ity, ex­perts in Am­s­ter­dam have con­firmed that a Vin­cent van Gogh self-por­trait was in­deed painted by the Dutch mas­ter as he re­cov­ered in a French asy­lum from a men­tal break­down.

Van Gogh Mu­seum re­searcher Louis van Til­borgh dis­pelled the doubts yes­ter­day, say­ing the oil-on-can­vas paint­ing of the an­guished-look­ing painter was com­pleted in the late sum­mer of 1889 while Van Gogh was at the Sain­tremy asy­lum in south­ern France.

Questions about the paint­ing rose in the 1970s. The use of a pal­ette knife to flat­ten brush strokes on Van Gogh’s face and what were then con­sid­ered to be un­usual colours in the paint­ing led to spec­u­la­tion about the au­then­tic­ity of the work, which was bought as a gen­uine Van Gogh in 1910 by Nor­way’s National Mu­seum.

In an at­tempt to put those doubts to rest, the mu­seum asked the Van Gogh Mu­seum to an­a­lyze the paint­ing in 2014.

“It feels really re­as­sur­ing to know that its gen­uine,” said Mai Britt Gu­leng of the Nor­we­gian mu­seum.

Van Til­borgh said the use of an un­primed can­vas and a muddy green colour were, in fact, typ­i­cal of Van Gogh’s time in Saint-remy in 1889.

What sets the work apart is Van Gogh’s use of a pal­ette knife.

“So he has painted it and dur­ing the process he sud­denly de­cides that it has to be­come flat,” Van Til­borgh said. “We tend to think that it has to do with the fact that it’s made dur­ing a pe­riod of psy­chosis.”

Van Til­borgh said Van Gogh used paint­ing as both a way of por­tray­ing his men­tal break­down and of help­ing him to re­cover.

“He wanted to say in this picture that he was an ill per­son and so it’s a kind of ther­a­peu­tic work we tend to think,” he said. “He was a Protes­tant and as a Protes­tant you have to ac­cept the facts of life – if you suf­fer, you have to face the suf­fer­ing.”

Nor­way’s most fa­mous artis­tic son, painter Ed­vard Munch, whose iconic work, “The Scream,” also is a vivid ex­pres­sion of men­tal an­guish, was fas­ci­nated by the Van Gogh paint­ing.

“He thought it was one of the best of the col­lec­tion of the national gallery but he also found it scary, be­cause of the gaze from the self-por­trait star­ing back at him,” Gu­leng said.

The paint­ing will re­main on dis­play at the Van Gogh Mu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam be­fore re­turn­ing to Oslo in 2021, when the National Mu­seum, cur­rently closed for ren­o­va­tion, re­opens in a new build­ing.

“When we de­liv­ered the paint­ing in 2014 they warned us and said: ‘You might not like the re­sults and it might be that we will never find out’.” Gu­leng said. “So we were very happy when we got the news.”

• Mean­while five valu­able paint­ings stolen in a heist 40 years ago have been re­turned to their home in a mu­seum in Gotha in eastern Ger­many, the prime min­is­ter of the state of Thuringia said yes­ter­day.

The works by Frans Hals, An­thony van Dyck, Jan Lievens, Hans Hol­bein the El­der and from the stu­dio of Jan Brueghel the El­der, were pub­licly pre­sented in Berlin last week and are now back on the walls of the Gotha mu­seum, Bodo Ramelow said.

They were stolen on De­cem­ber 14, 1979, from the col­lec­tion of Schloss Frieden­stein in Gotha, a small town 140 kilo­me­tres west of Leipzig.

The thieves broke into the mu­seum us­ing climb­ing irons a few days be­fore a newly in­stalled alarm sys­tem was due to be ac­ti­vated.


A man looks at Dutch post-im­pres­sion­ist painter Vin­cent van Gogh’s self por­trait, painted dur­ing a psy­chotic episode, at the Van Gogh Mu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam. Picture:

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