At Large  May 25, 2021  Anna Claire Mauney

Possible Long-lost Van Gogh Sent to Museum for Authentication

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Van Gogh Museum Entrance. 

Stuart Pivar, art collector and cofounder of the New York Academy of Art with Andy Warhol, claims to have discovered a long-lost Van Gogh at an obscure country auction in North America. The former owners are, according to Pivar, “not art people” and specifically asked the collector not to give their names.

The work, titled Auvers, was allegedly painted in 1890 and is signed “Vincent” on the back. It has not yet been authenticated but, if it is, the work will become the largest Van Gogh painting and the only one made on a square canvas. In its original thirty-six by thirty-six-inch frame, it seems this painting has never undergone any restoration—a true rarity for paintings from the late nineteenth century.

If truly a Van Gogh, this was one of more than seventy works painted in the last two months of the artist's life. Perhaps even more fascinating, it may show the site of the artist's death. Van Gogh shot himself in a wheatfield in Auvers, France. Pivar has openly posited that the very wheatfield may be depicted in the painting.

The artwork is currently on its way to experts at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. There, it will be examined and possibly authenticated. Before sending it off, Pivar invited Michael Mezzatasta—director emeritus of Duke University Museum of art—to examine it. Mezzatesta has stated that the canvas, nails, signature, and date all correspond in terms of materiality and appearance with what one would expect from a Van Gogh.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows, 1890. 19.7 x 40.5 inches. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

The painting seems to have a fascinating provenance. As mentioned, the most recent owners have requested to stay anonymous but a label on the back states the item was once the property of prominent Parisian collector of the twentieth century, Jonas Netter. The back of the canvas has also been inscribed with a possible inventory number, 2726, and an as yet unidentified wax seal sits on the stretcher.

Though Pivar is always looking for rare and valuable artworks, this find is certainly his greatest thus far. He was quoted by Page Six as saying, “This is what we are considering to be the greatest art find in 100 years.” Time will tell if this is true.

About the Author

Anna Claire Mauney

Anna Claire Mauney is the former managing editor for Art & Object. A writer and artist living in North Carolina, she is interested in illustration, the 18th-century, and viceregal South America. She is also the co-host of An Obsessive Nature, a podcast about writing and pop culture.

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