The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam announced on Monday the discovery of a significant painting by Vincent van Gogh, done in 1888, at the height of the artist's career.
“Sunset at Montmajour,” was painted in Arles, and depicts a hilly landscape. Museum officials say such a major, full-size work by van Gogh hasn't emerged since 1928.
Axel Rüger, the museum's director, said in an interview, “It is a work from the most important period of his life, when he created his substantial masterpieces, like ‘The Sunflowers,’ ‘The Yellow House’ and ‘The Bedroom.'”
Until 1901, the painting had been in the family of the artist's brother, Theo. It eventually went to a Norwegian family who relegated it to the attic when it was declared a fake. Another family purchased it from them, but the museum is not releasing their identities.
The owners brought the painting into the museum for identification in 1991, and it was not recognized as a van Gogh. Two years ago, they brought it in again and it was carefully analyzed with new research methods. Researchers say pigments used in the painting match others used by van Gogh in Arles. Among other factors, a letter written by van Gogh and an inventory of Theo's collection support its authenticity.
A letter van Gogh wrote shortly after the work was done says, “Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill, and wheat fields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be more so, à la Monticello, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold."
The rediscovered painting will go in view in “Van Gogh at Work,” at the Van Gogh Museum, beginning on Sept. 24.