Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Missing Van Gogh Sketchbook?

The Telegraph newspaper and Reuters are both reporting this week about a sketchbook in Greece believed by its owner to have belonged to van Gogh. Her father acquired the sketchbook during WW II, when as a resistance fighter, he apparently took it from a Nazi train during a raid. The sketchbook bears a Nazi stamp and a stamp from the Brussels Academy of Art. The contents include sketches of some of van Gogh's paintings and drawings, including the drawing "Sorrow" (done in The Hague), part of the "Potato Eaters" (a painting done in Nuenen), and a portrait of Pere Tanguy (original painting done in Paris). The current owner believes the sketchbook to be authentic; she has consulted a Greek art expert, who also believes it to be authentic, and has contacted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, who has yet to examine the object.

Far be it for me to give a strong opinion myself, especially only looking at small pictures on a website, but something that the Telegraph article claims absolutely cannot be true. The Telegraph article says that "The notebook...apparently dates from the year van Gogh was enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art in Brussels in 1880." But every painting/drawing referenced in the notebook dates AFTER 1880: "The Potato Eaters" was painted in 1885, the portraits of Pere Tanguy date from 1886-87, etc. So that at least can't be right. It would also be out of character for van Gogh to have done copies of works from such disparate periods in a single sketchbook. The surviving sketchbooks of his in the VGM mostly contain little scribbles (as he called them) that don't relate to specific paintings, and they don't look backward to earlier periods in his life. He did do drawings after paintings, but these were mostly sent to Theo, Emile Bernard, John Russell, or other friends in the form of letter sketches or larger finished drawings (not in a sketchbook). At least some of these sketches in the Greece notebook are signed, which would also be unusual for one of Vincent's sketchbooks. As for style...well, here again, I'm looking at small website pictures, but...

It'll be interesting to see what the VGM says, if anything. They will evaluate style, materials used (ink, paper), etc. if it comes down to a physical examination of the actual object. A story worth following.

1 comment:

puji said...

Van Gogh is the artist that I liked because he always makes a self-portrait painting.