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Occasional Painting – Head of a Man

Friday, August 3, 2007
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Hello, I'm not a Van Gogh

By ?

Head of a Man, (1886)

National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia)

Up until, well, yesterday, this painting was attributed to Vincent van Gogh, and as such, was valued at roughly $25 million. The work was purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1940, having been bought, and brought to Australia by Rupert Murdoch’s father, Keith, in 1939.

It was only after the painting went on display in Edinburgh last year that art historians began to have some doubts regarding its authenticity as a van Gogh. So, after a stint at the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, where it underwent many tests (you know, the standard stuff: DNA analysis, making it run on the treadmill to check it’s heart-rate, IQ, etc), the work has now been stripped of its van Gogh status. This is not to say it is a forgery, we should make this distinction clear. This is a genuine non-van Gogh, painted by one of his contemporaries.

The National Gallery of Victoria states that it had been accepted as a van Gogh for 10 years before they purchased it, the gallery director Gerard Vaughan went on to say that “The reattribution of paintings is part of the daily life in any major gallery.” I guess so, but I can’t imagine that they weren’t a little bit disappointed, as I’m sure the value of this work, and the popularity will have now plummeted. Here again we see the silly old art world at work. Does it really matter whether the work was painted by van Gogh or not? As a van Gogh, I’m sure it received a lot of attention in the museum, but as a non-van Gogh, I thinking most people will just walk on by, without giving it much of a glance.

Over at the blog, Art History Today, the editor speculates that it was probably much easier for the gallery to accept that the work is not a genuine van Gogh, because they purchased it so long ago. If they had paid $20 million for it ten years ago, they might have put up more of a fuss.tniapcco llewopemearg

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alexandra permalink
    Sunday, August 5, 2007 1:07 pm

    If you’re interested in the whole wacky world of art authenticity, you should check out “Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?” It’s a neat little film distributed by Alliance Atlantis and available for rent right now.

  2. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, August 7, 2007 12:18 pm

    Jackson Pollock is a painter — geez, Alex, everyone knows that.

    He was also a fish.

  3. Friday, February 15, 2008 9:13 am

    wot r u all talkin about jackson pollock is mi mate

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