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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Brown

6. And speaking of reattributions...

Updated: May 26, 2020

There's been a painting newly re-attributed to Van Gogh this week.

This self-portrait that lives in the National Gallery in Oslo has joined the official list. Relegated to the basement storage for decades, the 1889 Self-Portrait dates from Van Gogh's stay in the asylum at Saint-Rémy, in southern France.

Poor Vincent, looking so miserable and ill. The painting joined the national collection in Norway in 1910--a decade or more before paintings by Van Gogh began to make their way into museums. Curators and specialists doubted its authenticity "because of an incomplete provenance and questions over its style and use of colour." The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has been studying it--the techniques, the types of paint, the canvas, all the details that modern conservation technology shows off--and has now confirmed it.

And why am I mentioning this? Because it's another example of a painting with a murky past that has now been welcomed into the canon.

Does that mean that Flowers and Fruit, our own disowned painting, might rejoin the Gauguin canon some day? It does not. Necessarily. But: it shows us that what we know, what we can know, changes.

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