van Gogh discoveries

Discoveries of previously unknown works by Vincent van Gogh—although rare—have happened from time to time since the “definitive” van Gogh catalogue was updated andrepublished in 1970. Although it is more likely for new finds to be drawings, sketches, and illustrated letters, new paintings have surfaced, as well. In some cases these were works hiding in plain sight, waiting for identification by a trained eye. In other cases these were paintings whose authenticity was confirmed after a period of doubt.

One of the most extraordinary recent finds was a van Gogh discovered in a home in the suburbs of Milwaukee. The painting, “Still Life with Flowers” (1886-87), was identified in 1991 by a Wisconsin representative of a Chicago auction house. The representative
had been in the home to examine pieces of antique furniture when he noted the painting hanging on a wall. He suspected it might be an authentic van Gogh, and subsequent analysis confirmed the identification. The painting’s owners were a retired, middle-class couple. They had inherited the work from a relative who had moved to the US from Switzerland following the outbreak of World War II. When the painting went to auction it sold for $1.43 million, a record price for the Chicago area.

Another work in a private collection was authenticated just a few years ago. In 2008 the discovery of a van Gogh drawing was published in The Burlington Magazine. The pencil and crayon sketch of an old man and a woman was given as a wedding present in 1914 to relatives of the current owners. In the case of this drawing’s authentication, the subject matter, materials, and provenance all pointed back to van Gogh.

In 2010 a museum in the Dutch city of Zwolle became the owner of a newly authenticated van Gogh. The painting, which depicts the windmill known as Le Blute-fin on Paris’s Montmartre hill, had been purchased in 1975 from a Paris art dealer as an anonymous work for 6,500 francs (less than 1000 euros). Experts dismissed the work as a forgery or a copy until recent reexaminations. Sophisticated technical analysis by the Van Gogh Museum—including an examination of the work’s materials, dimensions, and subject matter—offered highly convincing evidence in support of an authentic attribution. The painting is now firmly secured as a work by van Gogh.

If you are in possession of a painting or work on paper that you would like examined, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to provide our expert opinion and advise you on how best to proceed.

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