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Vincent Van Gogh's Newly Discovered Portrait

The Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh, is a legendary figure in the history of art. The post-impressionist artist with the tragic ending and the adventurous life exercised a huge influence on the 20th-century. While he was alive he managed to sell only one painting, today, he is a constant value in the "art stock market" with the prices of his works remaining unapproachable for the largest portion of the public.

Tribouillard, K. (2021). “Worn Out". [Photograph]. AFP.

In almost a decade, Van Gogh painted 2,100 paintings, including 860 oil paintings, most of them painted during the last two years of his life. His work includes landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits. The works of the Dutch period (1880-1886) are heavy, with rich colors but in low tones and without much refinement. The most typical example of his art during that first period is "The Potato Eaters". Later in Paris, he came in contact with other modernist painters, with the Japanese prints, and the works of great colorists of the past, such as Delacroix. All these references changed his style radically. In his more mature Arles period, Van Gogh creates his works using thick and dazzling colors and frantic brush strokes. During the last two and a half years of his life, he painted hundreds of paintings, including his most famous works "Self-portrait", "Sunflowers" and the "Starry night". Van Gogh left a rich legacy of artworks. Most of them adorn the walls of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The museum's permanent collection includes works from every artistic phase of Van Gogh, from adolescence until the end of his life. Despite the plethora of works left by the artist, it is extremely rare to find an unknown work attributed to him. When the news broke out on 16 September 2021 from the Van Gogh museum itself, that in an unknown portrait of 1882 are attributed techniques of the painter, the whole artistic community was left speechless.

V. Van Gogh. (1882). “Worn Out". [Portrait]. Van Gogh’s Museum.

The "new" Van Gogh entitled "Worn Out", dates from November 1882 and is part of a Dutch private collection. Throughout his life, Van Gogh gave to his designs English titles in an effort to gain recognition and possibly even to find a job in an illustrated magazine. In his mind, he had an idea that he would go further than the Netherlands as an artist. The portrait was only known by a few people, including some from the Van Gogh Museum. The owner, who remains anonymous, asked the museum to determine if the unsigned portrait belongs to Van Gogh. Teio Meedendorp, a Van Gogh expert, said that from the style to the materials that are used (a thick carpenter's pencil and thick watercolor paper) the portrait is in line with Van Gogh's designs in the Hague. Another important detail is that there are still traces of damages to the back of the work. That information linking it to the way Van Gogh used starch to attach sheets of paper to drawing boards. The work comes from a period of the artist, who worked to improve his skills as a portrait painter. The museum already has in its possession an almost identical portrait and a well-known lithograph of a jaded villager. The lithograph is known as "The Gate of Eternity" depicting an elderly villager, sitting in a wooden chair, holding his head with both hands. That fact made very clear that the works are related, according to Mr. Meedendorp. The unknown work also, depicts an elderly, bald man sitting, leaning forward, in a wooden chair, holding his bald head with his hands. The work is far separated from the vivid oil paintings with the sunflowers and the French landscapes. Themes eventually turned the tortured Van Gogh into one of the world's most famous artists, with his works being auctioned for astronomical amounts. Instead, the work depicts how a young artist in the Hague back in 1882, had to face an unpleasant truth. He realized that he did not have the ability to paint people. But, as Mr. Meedendorp said, "He designed them because he liked to paint."

V. Van Gogh. (1887). “Paris street scene in Montmartre”. [Painting]. BBC.

The announcement comes six months after another Van Gogh painting of a Paris street scene in Montmartre went on display for the first time. The work has previously spent more than 100 years behind closed doors and finally sold for 13.09 million euros at auction in March. The "Worn Out" will be on display at the Van Gogh's museum in Amsterdam until January 2. After that period the work will be returned to its owner. The museum's director, Emilie Gordenker, said the team was "delighted with this discovery". While she added that "It's quite rare for a new work to be attributed to Van Gogh. We're proud to be able to share this early drawing and its story with our visitors."


BBC. (2021, 16 September). Vincent Van Gogh: Newly discovered drawing goes on display.

Athens Voice. (2021, 16 September). Άγνωστο έργο του Βαν Γκογκ εκτίθεται για πρώτη φορά στο κοινό.

Το Βήμα team. (2021, 16 September). Άγνωστο έργο του Βαν Γκογκ εκτίθεται για πρώτη φορά στο κοινό. Το Βήμα.

Σαν Σήμερα. (2020, 30 March). Βινσεντ Βαν Γκογκ.


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Anna-Aikaterini Bati

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