Mar 21, 2012

Art historians discover new Van Gogh after testing piece previously attributed to unknown artist

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Detective work by art historians has led to them discovering a new Van Gogh painting.

Experts made the find after X-raying a piece that had been attributed to an unknown artist.

The scan of the canvas, ‘Still life with meadow flowers and roses’, pictured below, uncovered an image of two wrestlers painted underneath. Knowledge of the painter’s period at a Belgian art academy combined to lead a team of researchers to conclude it was a Van Gogh.

The X-ray shows the wrestlers wearing loin cloths. Having models pose was a defining characteristic of the Antwerp academy where Van Gogh studied in 1886. It is thought the wrestlers were a subject the artist grew tired of and painted over.

The painting hangs in Holland’s Kroeller-Mueller Museum.

Masterpiece: The Van Gogh painting, known as 'Still life with meadow flowers and roses', which hung in a Dutch museum for more than three decades before the discovery, was thought to have been the work of another artist
Masterpiece: The Van Gogh painting, known as 'Still life with meadow flowers and roses', which hung in a Dutch museum for more than three decades before the discovery, was thought to have been the work of another artist


Experts say the wrestlers typify the artist's work of the period and form enough evidence to allow authentication. 

Curators at the Kroeller-Mueller Museum bought the piece in 1974 believing it was a Van Gogh, but doubts were soon cast over its origin.

In 2003, it was attributed to an anonymous artist after experts said the canvas was too large and the composition too busy to be authentic. The signature was in an unusual position for Van Gogh - the top right hand corner.

But now the painting has been confirmed to be the work of the Dutch impressionist after all, thanks to new X-ray techniques allowing art historians to examine the canvas.
 
Underneath the still life is a depiction of two wrestlers, a piece the artist presumably grew tired of and painted over. Knowledge of the painter's period at a Belgian art academy combined to lead a team of researchers to conclude it was created by his hand.

The painting, on a 100 centimetre by 80 centimetre (40x31in) canvas, had already been X-rayed five years previously but it only revealed an indistinct image of the wrestlers.

The latest X-ray has shown the wrestlers in more detail, along with the brush strokes and pigments used. They all pointed back to Van Gogh. Louis van Tilborgh, a senior researcher at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, said the X-ray allowed researchers to solve the riddle.

Hidden trasure: X Ray techniques used to examine the canvas uncovered a second painting underneath of two wrestlers, which the artist presumably grew tired of and painted over
Hidden treasure: X-ray techniques used to examine the canvas uncovered a second painting underneath of two wrestlers, which the artist presumably grew tired of and painted over


He added: 'All the pieces just fell into place. You can see the wrestlers more clearly and the fact that they are wearing loin cloths.' 

Having models pose was a defining characteristic of the Antwerp academy where Van Gogh studied in early 1886. So was the size of the canvas, the Kroeller-Mueller Museum said in a statement.

Vincent wrote to his brother Theo about needing the large canvas, new brushes and paint. Theo helped the penniless artist buy the materials and a week later Van Gogh wrote back that he was delighted with the painting of two wrestlers.

Van Tilborgh said the brush strokes and pigments in the wrestlers painting also corresponded with what experts now know about Van Gogh's work in Antwerp. The wrestlers also help explain the 'uncharacteristic exuberance' of the floral still life, the Kroeller-Mueller Museum statement said - Van Gogh had to cover up all of the old image with his new work.

The detective work is described in a new publication by the Van Gogh Museum titled 'Rehabilitation of a flower still life in the Kroeller-Mueller Museum and a lost Antwerp painting by Van Gogh.’




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Aberdeen art gallery

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Vettriano's the Singing Butler
Vettriano's the Singing Butler has attracted record numbers to the Aberdeen Art Gallery
 

The Aberdeen art gallery is to extend its opening hours as a result of demand to see an exhibition
"From Van Gogh to Vettriano" has attracted record audiences since it opened in February. 

More than 12,000 people viewed the exhibition in its first two weeks and weekends have seen up to 2,000 visitors. 

The gallery will open until 20:00 on two evenings so the public can view the display before it ends on 15 April.

The exhibition features work by Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, British artists Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and modern masters Lucian Freud and R.B. Kitaj.

It also features Jack Vettriano's iconic work The Singing Butler. 

It became the most expensive painting by a Scottish artist when it sold for £750,000 eight years ago. 

Visitor numbers to the gallery have doubled to see the selection of paintings and sculpture drawn from a number of collections in the north-east. 

To cope with the demand the Aberdeen Art Gallery has decided to extend its opening hours on the 5th and 12th of April.

Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Manager Christine Rew said: "We are delighted that so many people have come to see this outstanding selection of paintings and sculpture drawn from a number of collections in the north-east. 

"The two special late night openings have been arranged in direct response to public demand." 



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Painting Slashed at Museum of Art and History

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Early in the afternoon at the First Friday in March, as attendance began to grow and the staff was busy, a visitor to the Futzie Nutzle exhibit slashed a painting with a knife. 

No one saw the perpetrator, who committed the first act of vandalism in the history of the museum, and no evidence was left for the police.

Executive Director Nina Simon described the artist’s works as “witty, fun, with an edge.”  The damaged painting by artist Futzie Nutzle, aka Bruce Kleinsmith, showed a New Yorker magazine cover that he had made as a birthday present to himself when he turned 70.

“I don’t know who the person was or what they were thinking," said Simon. "It is very sad that this happened. We called Nutzle and he came down and was upset about it. But he was very generous and he replaced it with another painting. He said he wanted to take the high road and have a positive note on it. We all felt terrific about the show and it was a real shame that this has happened.”

She said she believes that “any museum is really an act of trust and faith between the artists, the museum, and the community. We have all kinds of things out that could be destroyed or stolen, beautiful things that were created with a lot of care and attention.”

Since Simon has been on board First Friday has tripled in attendance – now to about 1,500 people on a regular basis – but the museum is still a small museum.

“We can’t afford to hire security guards and put cameras all over the place. And frankly, I want to create an environment in which you don’t feel like a guard is always breathing down your neck.

“So it’s really sad for me when this kind of violation of trust happens, because it makes us doubt what we’re trying to do – be a great community place. I think of it as an act of malicious vandalism and I presume that it will never happen again.”

Simon had a second violation last weekend when someone walked off with one of the LED hula-hoops being used at the GLOW exhibit.

Although the staff offices are just a few yards away from the gallery where the painting was slashed, Simon said that no one feared for their personal safety.

“It’s made us realize we need more gallery hosts, volunteers who walk through the galleries, particularly on First Friday when we have a lot of people in the building.”

Only 30-years-old, she has worked in museums for the last 10 years, learning and supporting her believe in participatory museums in places like Boston and Washington, DC. The Los Angeles native moved to Santa Cruz with her husband in 2007.

Before joining MAH, she spent years jetting off to consult with museums around the world, teaching them how to engage with their communities and to invite their audiences to become active collaborators. When the director’s position opened in Santa Cruz, Simon called it a “great fit and I get to ride my bike to work.” She and her husband live in a cabin in the woods in Happy Valley.

“I knew that people in Santa Cruz wanted to participate but I didn’t know the level at which they wanted to. People in grocery stores come up to me and want to talk about it.

"In most communities the level of participation is around 2-5 percent of visitors. Here it’s more like 30-50 percent of visitors are getting involved in these activities. The community is so excited to engage in drawing their own thing, telling their own story,” Simon said.

One of the walls in her office is painted cobalt blue and papered with visitors’ comment cards. Her first day on the job she put up a comment board in the lobby.

“People can make suggestions and tell us their dreams about what they want the Museum to be and I read everyone.  I often respond to people and I keep a lot of them up here on my wall to inspire me. We make sure we’re being responsive to all the great ideas of the community.”




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