Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait was discovered on the back of another of his paintings

A Vincent van Gogh self-portrait more than a century old has been discovered by a Scottish museum on the back of another painting by the Dutch painter, an “incredibly rare” find that will be shared with the public from the end of the month. .

This discovery was made possible after X-ray examination of the painting “Portrait of a Peasant Woman” painted by Van Gogh in 1885. The self-portrait was found on the back of the work, covered in layers of glue and cardboard, which was added before an exhibition in the early 20th century.

It shows a seated man with a beard, hat and scarf around his neck. We can clearly see that Van Gogh cut off his left ear after a heated argument with Gauguin in Arles (France) in 1888.

“When we first saw the radio, of course we were very excited,” says Leslie Stevenson, curator of the National Galleries of Scotland, “such major discoveries only happen once or a few times. Curator”.

“Moments like this are incredibly rare,” said Francis Foll, a curator specializing in French art at the galleries. “We discovered an unknown work by one of the world’s most important and famous artists, Vincent van Gogh,” he enthused. The museum previously housed only three works by the artist.

Separate the two paintings?

Van Gogh (1853-1890) was known for reusing canvases to save money, especially early in his career. He flipped the canvas over and painted on the other side. By 1885 he was living in the Netherlands, five years after joining the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels where his style was developing.

Influenced by his establishment in Paris in 1886 and his discovery of the Impressionists, the self-portrait would have been painted a little later.

The x-ray study was carried out as part of preparations for an exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland, part of the Museums of the National Galleries of Scotland, which opens on July 30 – until November 13 and is entitled “A Taste for Impressionism”. Works by Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin and Monet.

The self-portrait will be the main part reproduced by radiography.

Experts pondered how to separate the two paintings, a very delicate job, after removing the glue and cardboard, so as not to risk damaging the “Portrait of a Peasant Woman.”

Van Gogh, a tormented painter who suffered from mental illness in his later years and was largely unknown during his lifetime, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at the age of 37 in France.

His works include more than 2,000 paintings, drawings and sketches. He continued to paint self-portraits, of which 37 are known so far, reflecting the evolution of his art.

In 2021, his famous canvas “Wheat Sheaves”, painted in Arles in 1888, reached $35.85 million at auction at Christie’s in New York, an auction record for the artist.

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