The director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Alex Ruger, with the painting, Sunset at Montmajour, by Vincent Van Gogh in Amsterdam on Monday. (AFP)
Amsterdam, Sept. 9: The Van Gogh Museum here announced today that it has identified a major new painting by Vincent Van Gogh. The work, Sunset at Montmajour, was painted in Arles in 1888, a period that is considered to be the height of the painter’s career.
“For the first time in the history of the museum, that is in the past 40 years, a substantial capital new work of van Gogh has been discovered that was completely unknown in the literature,” said the museum’s director, Axel Rüger, in an interview.
“We always think we’ve seen everything and we know everything, and now we’re able to add a significant new work to his oeuvre.” He added, “It is a work from the most important period of his life, when he created his substantial masterpieces, like The Sunflowers, The Yellow House and The Bedroom.”
The painting depicts dusk in the hilly landscape of Montmajour, in Provence, with wheat fields and the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey in the background. The area around Montmajour was a subject that van Gogh explored repeatedly during his time in Arles.
The painting has been in the private collection of a family for several years and Rüger said that because of privacy concerns, he couldn’t release any more information about the owners.
Until 1901, it was in the family collection owned by Vincent’s brother, Theo, said Marije Vellekoop, head of collections, research and presentation for the museum. It was exhibited in Paris and sold to a Paris art dealer, who then sold it to a Norwegian collector in 1908, she said. Shortly after that, Vellekoop added, “it was declared a fake, or not an original” and the Norwegian collector banished it to his attic, where it stayed until the current owners purchased it from him. Vellekoop declined to give any more information about the date of purchase or the owners. It was also painted on the same type of canvas, with the same type of underpainting he used for at least one other painting, The Rocks (owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston) of the same area at the same time, according to the museum. The work was also listed as part of Theo van Gogh’s collection in 1890, and was sold in 1901.
Sunset at Montmajour is comparable in size to van Gogh’s Sunflower painting of the same year. Museum officials declined to speculate on the value of the work.
“From this period, there are not so many paintings on the market — either of this size and of this stature, so it’s hard to say anything about that,” said Vellekoop. His Sunflowers, painted in the same year, sold for £25 million in 1987 at an auction at Christie’s London.
The owners brought it to the museum once before in 1991, said Rüger, but at the time no one recognised it as a van Gogh.
“This time, we have topographical information plus a number of other factors that have helped us to establish authenticity.