A self portrait of Van Gogh suffering from psychosis authenticated after 50 years.
Experts confirmed on Monday the authenticity of a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh in which he displayed a sad face, ending decades of uncertainty around the canvas considered by them as the only work painted by the Dutch artist while he had psychosis.
The authenticity of this painting, owned by the National Gallery in Oslo, has been confirmed by experts from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The museum has ended by sweeping away the doubts that loomed over the attribution of the canvas since 1970.
In 2014, the Norwegian museum decided to submit the painting to the expert eye of Dutch specialists.
After scientific X-ray analysis, the study of brushstrokes and references to the painting in letters from the painter to his brother Theo, experts established that the canvas had been painted in late summer 1889, when that Van Gogh was staying in a psychiatric asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in the south of France.
The painting shows different colors than other Van Goghs of the same period, and part of the picture seems unfinished.
It is a work of art which, for many reasons, was by him but which nevertheless presented certain aspects different from the other paintings, explains to AFP Louis van Tilborgh, the researcher at the Van Gogh museum.
"So we had to find an explanation for this, which was difficult, but I think we have resolved that, and we are proud to have more or less returned his work," he continues.
The Oslo Museum bought the painting in 1910 from a collector in Paris for 10,000 francs, making it the first self-portrait of Van Gogh in a public collection.
Experts now identify the painting as a companion canvas of two famous self-portraits held by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, made a little later by a Van Gogh, when he was in treatment for his psychosis.
Unlike these two paintings, the canvas in the Oslo museum undeniably represents a mentally ill person, observes Mr. Van Tilborgh. A year before making this self-portrait, Van Gogh cut his ear after an argument with his friend and painter Paul Gauguin. This gesture marked the beginning of a period of back and forth in hospices and asylums.
We are very happy that the painting is authentic, said Mai Britt Guleng, curator at the Oslo Museum. We need to know that we have a real Van Gogh in our collection.
The work is the only one likely to be linked to a self-portrait that Van Gogh described in a letter to his brother on September 20, 1889, as "an essay from when I was sick".
The painter was struck by a severe psychotic episode, which lasted a month and a half from July of the same year, and although he felt able to paint again at the end of this period, he recognized that he remained disturbed.
Even though Van Gogh was afraid to admit that he was in a state similar to that of other people in the asylum, he probably painted this portrait to come to terms with what he saw in the mirror. He saw a person that he did not want to be but that he was " , advance Mr. Van Tilborgh, professor of art history at the University of Amsterdam.
"This is part of what makes the painting so remarkable and even therapeutic. It is the only work by Van Gogh, which we can be sure was painted when he had psychosis," he continues.
The work is currently on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and will return to Norway when its new national museum opens in Oslo in 2021. Le Journal des arts