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Newly discovered Van Gogh painting ‘Sunset at Montmajour’

Newly discovered Van Gogh painting ‘Sunset at Montmajour’

Sunset at Montmajour, the newly discovered painting by Vincent van Gogh, will be on show in the Van Gogh Museum from today. Director Axel Rüger: “We are pleased to be able to show this exceptional painting to our visitors, because a new discovery of this magnitude has never before occurred in the history of the Van Gogh Museum. It is already a rarity that a new painting can be added to Van Gogh’s oeuvre. But what makes this even more exceptional is that this is a large painting from his period in Arles in the south of France, considered by many to be the culmination of his artistic achievement. During this period he also painted world-famous works such as Sunflowers, The yellow house and The bedroom.

Until 12 January, Sunset at Montmajour will be on show in the Van Gogh at work exhibition in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This anniversary exhibition reveals all aspects of Van Gogh’s working method by showing many masterpieces from the artist’s extensive oeuvre.

Van Gogh at work
Axel Rüger: “This discovery emphasizes the great importance of research into Van Gogh’s painting method, his use of materials and his life, as it is continuously carried out by the Van Gogh Museum as expertise centre. This research provides us with new insights and increasingly sophisticated techniques that are essential for the conservation and management of art collections worldwide. This research has also been essential for a discovery such as Sunset at Montmajour. All recent results of this research, which was carried out by the Van Gogh Museum, in long-term cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (Rijkdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, RCE) and Partner in Science Shell Nederland, are the basis for our current exhibition Van Gogh at work.”

This exhibition shows Van Gogh’s development as a painter, by means of circa 200 works by Van Gogh and his contemporaries. Demonstrated by microscopic evidence and paint samples, visitors can see for themselves how he worked and progressed. Many masterpieces from the museum’s own collection, together with rare loans, among which The bedroom from The Art Institute of Chicago, illustrate how Van Gogh developed into a unique artist with an impressive oeuvre.

Axel Rüger en Jeroen Krabbé bij de nieuwe ontdekking Zonsondergang bij Montmajour (foto_ Jan-Kees Steenman)

“All research indicates: this painting is by Van Gogh”
It was recently announced that Sunset at Montmajour is by Van Gogh, following two years of research into its style, technique, paint, canvas, subject, Van Gogh’s letters and its provenance. The researchers of the Van Gogh Museum, Louis van Tilborgh and Teio Meedendorp, carried out art historical research into style, subject, use of materials and context. Everything they found indicated that this is a work by Van Gogh: “Stylistically and technically speaking, there are plenty of parallels with other paintings by Van Gogh from the summer of 1888. By means of research into literature and records, we were also capable of tracing the earliest history of the provenance of the painting. It belonged to Theo van Gogh’s collection in 1890 and was sold in 1901. The location of the painting has been identified – the landscape not far from Arles near the Montmajour hill, with the ruin of the abbey with the same name – and, moreover, there are two letters from the artist from the summer of 1888 that literally refer to the painting. Van Gogh writes that he had not succeeded in capturing the scene, which can be explained, because the painting shows very strong and typical characteristics of Van Gogh, next to weaker and less convincing elements. Technical research has shown that the pigments used correspond with those of Van Gogh’s palette from Arles – including the discolorations that are so characteristic of his oeuvre. He also used the same type of canvas and underpainting for at least one other work, The Rocks, from the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, which he painted during the same period and which is highly comparable in terms of style. Furthermore, the relatively large painting (93.3 x 73.3 cm) has been technically examined by our restorer Oda van Maanen, in cooperation with the (RCE), with X-ray photos and computer analyses of the type of canvas used. The pigments used have also been identified. Microscopic research has been carried out into the various layers of paint. Everything supports the conclusion: this work is by Van Gogh.”

The entire report of the discovery of Sunset at Montmajour will be published in the October edition of The Burlington Magazine and will also be available in the Van Gogh Museum.