Newly discovered Vincent van Gogh drawing is a 'stylistic missing link'

A recently discovered drawing dated from 1886 by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh entitled The Hill Of Montmartre With Stone Quarry in the Singer Museum in Laren, Netherlands, on Jan 16, 2018.
A recently discovered drawing dated from 1886 by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh entitled The Hill Of Montmartre With Stone Quarry in the Singer Museum in Laren, Netherlands, on Jan 16, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

AMSTERDAM (NYTimes) - The Van Gogh Museum here announced on Tuesday (Jan 16) the discovery of a previously unknown drawing by Vincent van Gogh, which the museum said was completed about a month after the Dutch post-impressionist artist arrived in Paris in 1886. The museum's researchers studied the style and history of The Hill Of Montmartre With Stone Quarry, dated March 1886, and found documents they said confirm that it is a lost van Gogh.

"It's a big day today," said Mr Teio Meedendorp, a senior researcher at the Van Gogh Museum who studied the subject, style, technique, materials and provenance of the drawing, and found the relevant documentary evidence to support the attribution.

The museum owns the largest collection of van Gogh's works anywhere in the world, including more than half of the artist's drawn oeuvre - approximately 500 drawings as well as his sketchbooks.

"It's a nice robust drawing by Vincent and he captured the hill of Montmartre very well," Mr Meedendorp said.

He said that the drawing is particularly interesting because it is more in keeping with van Gogh's earlier style than his later work when he lived in Paris. He added that the drawing shows that van Gogh's work evolved during his crucial years in the French capital from a formal style that he learned at the art academy in Antwerp just before arriving in Paris, and became increasingly experimental.

"It's a kind of stylistic missing link between his Belgium and Paris time," said Mr Fred Leeman, an independent van Gogh expert and curator of exhibitions by the artist, who is a consultant to the Van Vlissingen Foundation, which currently owns the drawing.

The last time a new van Gogh drawing was discovered was in 2012. A year later, a new van Gogh painting, Sunset At Montmajour (1888), was also found. But these findings are relatively rare. Since the publication of the complete catalogue of van Gogh's works in 1970, another nine drawings and seven paintings have been added, Mr Meedendorp said.

When it came to the Van Gogh Museum for research in 2012, the drawing was owned by an American private collector whose Dutch relatives had purchased the work from a gallery in the Netherlands in 1917, Mr Meedendorp said. But the museum did not publicise the finding at the time, at the request of the previous owner.

Aside from Mr Leeman, no other experts outside the museum have yet seen the drawing.

Research by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the world's leading expertise centre on the artist, found that The Hill Of Montmartre With Stone Quarry came into the hands of van Gogh's sister-in-law, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, a meticulous keeper of van Gogh's materials, who numbered it "123" in her inventory.

Mr Meedendorf said that when he took the drawing out of its frame, he found the telltale number, "123", written on the back.

The discovery of The Hill Of Montmartre With Stone Quarry led the Van Gogh Museum to reconsider another drawing that it had in its collection, which had been part of the original donation from the van Gogh family heirs. That drawing, titled The Hill Of Montmartre, also completed in 1886, is drawn from a very similar perspective of the Parisian hilltop.

This drawing was originally thought to be by van Gogh, but in 2001, it was questioned because it was so dissimilar to work from his Paris period, and then discredited.

"Now that you have a set of two, it's clear that it was a style he maintained during the first part of his time in Paris," Mr Leeman said.