Previously thought to be a fake, The Sunset at Montmajour was officially declared to be an original piece by Vincent van Gogh on the 9th of September 2013. As such, it became the first full sized painting by the Dutch master to be legitimized since 1928.
While the current owner of the Sunset at Montmajour has asked to remain anonymous, the ownership of the painting is rather interesting. Until 1901, the painting was in the collection of works owned by Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s brother. In the early 1900s the piece was purchased by Norwegian industrialist Nicolai Christian Mustad. However, shortly after his purchase the painting was declared a forgery.
Incensed that the piece was not an original, Mustad stored the painting in the attic. After his death in 1970 his family consulted an art dealer to investigate the piece. Once more the Sunset at Montmajour was deemed to be a fake after which the Mustad family sold the painting to the current owner. In 1991 the Van Gogh museum was contracted to review the piece. Again the painting was deemed not to have been painted by van Gogh. However, in 2011 experts at the Dutch museum asked if they could take another look at the piece as new techniques to analyze the work were now available.
This authentication process was overseen by professors from Cornell and Rice Universities who used new digital techniques and bespoke computer software to analyze various aspects of van Gogh’s painting that simply cannot be viewed by the naked eye. For example, the software counted the thread density of the canvas comparing it to other van Gogh pieces. Through this analysis they determined that the canvas used to paint the Sunset at Montmajour matched a similar van Gogh painting, The Rocks.
The Piece Itself & its Significance
Sunset at Montmajour is a landscape oil painting that depicts a green tree-scape thought to have been created during van Gogh’s time in Arles in the South of France between 1888 and 1889. During this time van Gogh routinely explored Provence completing works outdoors including many drawings of olive trees, rock formations and the grounds of the Benedictine monastery at Montmajour. The monastery itself can be seen in the top left corner of the Sunset at Montmajour painting.
Measuring in at 28.9 in by 36.7 in, Sunset at Montmajour is one of van Gogh’s larger pieces from this period. However, unlike many of the artist’s other pieces, this painting is a quintessentially traditional 19th century landscape painting.
The Sunset at Montmajour originates from what is arguably the most important period in the Dutch master’s career; a period in which he created some of his most memorable works such as the Sunflowers, The Yellow House and The Bedroom. While other works from van Gogh’s portfolio are unearthed periodically, they are normally from early in the artist’s career. It is highly unusual for a piece from this period to be uncovered.
While there is no “official” estimated value for the Sunset at Montmajour, previous van Gogh works have sold for figures in excess of $50 million. However, this painting does not have the same prestige as a piece like the Portrait of Dr. Gachet that sold for a whopping $82.5 million at auction in 1990.
See It For Yourself
Van Gogh’s Sunset at Montmajour will be on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from the 24th of September 2013 until the 12th of January 2014 as part of the museum’s Van Gogh at Work exhibition that has been on display since May 1 2013.
Like what you see? Own your own Van Gogh’s Sunset at Montmajour print.