Van Gogh Painted Over Wrestler Masterpiece


Two new paintings Van Gogh have been discovered – one on top of the other on the same canvas!

The first is a still life, the existence and whereabouts of which has always been known but was thought to be by another anonymous painter, being ‘uncharacteristically exuberant’, and unusually sized at 100 x 80 cm.  The second, painted beneath the the first, depicts  two half-nude male wrestlers – a work known about through references within the artist’s letters (‘This week I painted a large thing with two nude torsos – two wrestlers’), but thought to have been destroyed.

There is no other painting of wrestlers, and it is the discovery of the second painting beneath the first that now confirms the still life’s authenticity.  For one reason or another, Van Gogh painted the still life over his wrestlers. The discovery of the Wresters has been made possible by the latest advances in high-intensity x-ray technology. Detecting pigments in hidden layers of paint, it enables a painting that has been hidden beneath another surface painting to be viewed in unprecedented detail. The project was undertaken by a group of scientists, curators and conservators .

As a consequence of these results, the Still Life has now been hailed as an authentic Van Gogh, and will be prominently displayed by the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Holland, which boasts one of the world’s largest Van Gogh collections, and which has hitherto relegated the work to a back room.

Professor Janssens of Antwerp University said: ‘For the first time, we could obtain images that reveal how Van Gogh started sketching parts of the wrestlers with broad paint strokes, much in the same manner in which he painted the figures in the oil sketch of the Potato Eaters, which would later become regarded as one of this most important early works.’

Professor Joris Dik of Delft University said: ‘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’.

Luuk Struick van der Loeff of the Kröller-Müller Museum said: ‘These and other arguments…leave no doubt that the wrestlers and the flower still life were painted by Van Gogh.’

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