March 20, 2012

"A still life once thought to be by Vincent van Gogh but later downgraded to being the work of an anonymous artist..."

"... is indeed by the tormented Dutch impressionist himself," writes AP reporter Mike Corder, presumably with some accuracy, though obviously not full accuracy, since Van Gogh was not an impressionist. He was a Post Impressionist.

Maybe we should call the Associated Press "post journalism."

By the way, it's not the greatest Van Gogh painting in the world, so you can see why it got "downgraded." But then X-ray technology somehow got to the truth. It had Van Gogh insides:
A detailed X-ray of an underlying painting of two wrestlers and knowledge of the painter's period at a Belgian art academy led a team of researchers to conclude that the painting really is by Van Gogh.
Nothing says "Van Gogh" like wrestlers! No, wait. Googling "Van Gogh wrestlers," I got to this much better written news story from The Independent, explaining the reasoning so it doesn't sound ridiculous:

The wrestlers’ existence was known only from a reference in one of the Dutch master’s letters, written aged 33, just four years before his tragic death. On 22 January 1886, he wrote: “This week I painted a large thing with two nude torsos – two wrestlers.”

There is no other painting of wrestlers. It is this painting that now confirms the still life’s authenticity. They are both on the same canvas. Van Gogh painted the still life over his wrestlers which could not be seen until now.
Maybe Van Gogh wouldn't have been so "tortured" if he hadn't felt the urge to paint stodgy flowers over top of his nude male torsos!
Professor Joris Dik of Delft University spoke of the excitement: “What makes it very tangible is this letter which refers to a painting that was thought to have been lost or had not survived.” He said that it was in Paris that Van Gogh became “obsessed” with flower painting, leaving behind his Dutch period, “where he used mostly dark colours”.
What happened in Paris? What was he really saying with flowers? Was there an underlying nude male torso message?

21 comments:

Hagar said...

Speaking of post-journalism, what's with the current fashion of writing "Egypt army," France shooter," "architecture firm," etc.?

pm317 said...

What happened in Paris?

He found his flower?

We know flowers make us all happy, judging by the magnolia pictures.

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pm317 said...

Maybe we should call the Associated Press "post journalism."

No, we should call them 'JournoListers'.

EDH said...

Yea, those guys look like they are... wrestling. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"It's nude male torsos that make Post Impressionism so wonderful...

if you like male torsos, fat juicy male torsos, you'll like Post Impressionism more!

Post Impressionism: the more Impressionistic Impressionism."

JMS said...

Post-journalism, as practiced by the Washington Post journolists.

EDH said...

Yea, those guys look like they are... wrestling. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"It's nude male torsos that make Post Impressionism so wonderful...

if you like male torsos, fat juicy male torsos, you'll like Post Impressionism more!

Post Impressionism: the more Impressionistic Impressionism."

EDH said...

Yea, those guys look like they are... wrestling. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"It's nude male torsos... that make Post Impressionism so wonderful...

if you like male torsos, fat juicy male torsos, you'll like Post Impressionism more!

Post Impressionism: the more Impressionistic Impressionism."

traditionalguy said...

The mind sees what it desires to see.

Actually those wrestlers are not nude. They are wearing pants.

Today Van Gogh could paint his wrestlers and then paint his flowers as tattoos on them.

Patrick said...

To expose my vast ignorance about art, why should it matter? Now, I certainly realize Van Gogh is one of the greats, and I like his Starry Night and I think he was obviously talented. I also recognize that there is value in anything he painted merely because he painted it. But, how much more value? Is a poor painting by Van Gogh better than a great painting by an unknown? de gustibus, and all of that, but is all of the additional value just what investors think they can recoup?

I sort of like the painting in question, but assume it was not a Van Gogh. From the "good" article, we see that the people who know about these things don't think much of the painting, because when they "deattributed" it, it wasn't merely moved, they put it in the back room. Not even worthy of display.

This also makes me question how good the art historians are. Deattributed because it was “uncharacteristically exuberant.” I would think that even a tortured soul like Van Gogh could be exuberant from time to time. Even if not, can't a guy try something new from time to time?

Patrick said...

"
I sort of like the painting in question, but assume it was not a Van Gogh"

That should read "but if we assume..."

Tank said...

Hard to tell about Van Gogh since he was kinda ... nuts. There are some interesting theories about this at the insane asylum he stayed in in St. Remy.

A great painter though. There is a room of his work in the Musee d-Orsay in Paris that is, for me, about the best roomful of art anywhere.

Yes, yes, that's just my opinion.

Ron said...

De-attribution because of inconsistencies in style makes sense to me, especially with a painter like van Gogh whose style has been studied so extensively. Good job with the x-ray to get at the truth!

Would a mediocre van Gogh still sell for a lot because it's a van Gogh? Of course! Bragging rights count for a lot at that end of the spectrum.

PS - Anyone who hasn't seen the "Steins Collect" exhibit at the Met is missing an overwhelming experience. Collector envy guaranteed!

Bob said...

The wrestlers were painted from life at the Antwerp Academy where, unlike other academies, the male models posed semi-nude. This is realistic for wrestlers, and I don't read anymore into it.
What I also find interesting is that during this time, Vincent painted directly over another painting. Didn't bother to lay down a fresh coat of paint to save both canvas, and paint.

lemondog said...

Reminiscent of Willem van Aelst an earlier Dutch painter.

Van Gogh early works totally unlike his later paintings.

ricpic said...

Looks like Vince was covering up his homoerotic tendencies with an innocuous flower painting. That's what Titus told me anyway.

Rusty said...

What happened in Paris?




Absinthe

Rusty said...

It looks for all the world like one of those massed produced paintings you can from a-guy-in-a-van in a gas station parking lot. Not something I'd care for,..........grandma maybe.
But any art is better than no art at all.

Sigivald said...

What happened in Paris? What was he really saying with flowers? Was there an underlying nude male torso message?

All kinds of things.

That he wanted to paint flowers.

Probably not.

There, does that help?

(Seriously - part of being A Painter is painting things, often just because they're difficult or interesting or new.

Flowers are hard to get right. So are bodies.

They are not automatically some Deep Insight Into The Painter's Mental State Or Desires.)

R. Chatt said...

I don't believe the flowers are by Van Gogh. The style is all wrong, he was never a fastidious painter or fancy. Here's another painting of flowers by him done in 1886. It looks like a Van Gogh, and it is signed. Here's another example.

Another theory, not mentioned in the article, is that the underpainting of the wrestlers may in fact have been done by Van Gogh and he gave it away or sold it to some other student because he didn't like it and needed the money. That sort of thing happens all the time with art students. I did it myself when I couldn't afford a large canvas and just painted over someone else's old canvas.

Valentine Smith said...

Through a glass darkly.

Since madmen took to destroying art as a political statement, all the great works are now muddied by nonreflective glass.

I've seen most of Van Gogh's work pre- and post-. The difference is astonishing.

Another barbarian triumph.