One has never finished discovering Van Gogh. After several in-depth analyses and a long work of research in the archives, the painting still life with fruit and chestnuts has been authenticated as being that of the painter. The news has delighted Thomas Camp, director of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, owner of the table since 1960. He returns on the long process of authentication of this unusual painting of Van Gogh.
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LE FIGARO. – How is the doubt about the attribution of the work appear?
Thomas CAMPBELL. – , Its subject is somewhat unusual, its vivid colours, its small size and its omission in relation to the whole of the works of Van Gogh have contributed to some caution around the table. The painting was no longer part of its catalogs for almost a century. In fact, it was for the last time in the catalogue of the exhibition of 1912 Sonderbund in Germany. She arrived in our museums, in 1960 through an american couple who had bought it in Berlin in 1922.
When began the work of award?
Our team of conservators had been interested by the review of this hand unclear for about a decade before its integration into the exhibition Sonderbund 2012 in Cologne. In the early 2000s, a link was proposed between the fabric of San Francisco and a painting, found in an old list of the works of Van Gogh drawn by the brother-in-law of Theo, Andries Bonger. The Van Gogh museum, as a world authority on the authentication of the artist’s work, has proposed to undertake a technical study to be more complete. In its research centre in Amsterdam, they have analysed the work with the help of cutting-edge technology, such as X-rays, infrared technology, and the analysis of the fabric of the canvas.
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That have unveiled the analyses of the table?
“the size, The type of fabric, color, pattern, and style correspond to a group of paintings that he made in the autumn of 1886, while he was a resident in Paris to perfect his technique”
After two years of technical review in-depth, we have just received the report with the good news. As we suspected, the still life with fruit and chestnuts was painted by Van Gogh. They have traced the origin of the work and came back to Johanna Van Gogh, the widow of his brother Theo, whose family has probably been assigned to the table in the symbolist Emile Bernard, also the owner of several still lifes of the artist. The size and type of canvas, colors, pattern, and style are all a group of paintings that he completed in the fall of 1886, when Vincent lived in Paris. It illustrates his desire to perfect his technique. The results have also shown that a portrait of a woman hiding under the nature dead.
Is it common to paint over a first work?
Van Gogh and many other artists have re-used canvases to paint new scenes on top of other, often unfinished, probably to save money on the canvas material. Thanks to new technologies, we are able to detect these paintings hidden to the naked eye, which adds to the understanding of the practice of the artist.
This table, however, seems distant from the usual work of Van Gogh…
During his stay in the French capital, Van Gogh had the intention of continuing his experiments on the color and the brushwork, which he had begun in the summer of 1885 through other natures dead. The painter was obliged to choose a different topic, because of the season. The layers of paint are applied fairly dispersed and correspond to a technique which he claims to have learned by studying the work of Peter Paul Rubens. Other effects suggest that it has experienced style is more impressionist, he had known from his parisian colleagues.
still life with fruit and chestnuts has found its place among 33 other works of Van Gogh exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco. It will also be shown in Frankfurt in the exhibition Making Van Gogh museum to the Städel Museum in October 2019.