Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Lies Underneath Van Gogh

In case anyone didn't know, my absolute favorite painter is the earless Vincent van Gogh. My girlfriend just got me a mug with one of van Gogh's self-portraits on it, and when you fill it with hot liquid, the ear disappears! It is hilarious! Anyway, whenever I go to the Met, I have to make homage to the Impressionist / Expressionist wing where I can see some of his stuff. So I get excited anytime he's in the news--which is rare. And right now, due to advances in X-Ray technology, he is! I just read the following:

Hidden Van Gogh revealed in color by scientists

Wed Jul 30, 11:33 AM ET

Scientists have made a colored view of an early rejected painting underneath Vincent van Gogh's 'Patch of Grass' painting, using advanced X-ray techniques, a Dutch university said on Wednesday.

The very detailed image shows the face of a woman and may give art historians a better understanding of the way Van Gogh developed as a painter.

"It is estimated that one third of Vincent van Gogh's early paintings have been painted on top of existing ones. Van Gogh literally recycled his own canvasses," scientist Joris Dik of the Delft University of Technology said.

Conventional X-ray techniques give a colorless, partial view of the hidden painting and only show vague contours of a person behind 'Patch of Grass', the university said.

By recycling his work Van Gogh painted many layers over the original painting but the scientists managed to scan all the different elements in those layers of the relevant area with X-ray fluorescence.

"We can make a virtual 3-dimensional model of the painting and start to peel off all the layers one by one. Then we get a nice detailed view of the hidden face," Dik said.

Van Gogh painted 'Patch of grass' in 1887 in Paris and it hangs in the Kroller-Muller museum in the Dutch eastern city of Otterlo.

(Reporting by Tineke van der Struik, editing by Paul Casciato)

I've reused a few of my own canvases--oh, by the way, I paint (more for therapeutic purposes than anything--every academic needs a non-academic hobby). The underlying image resembles much of his early work in which he depicts Dutch peasant life with dark colors, before he met the Parisian impressionists (you can see this on the reverse side of his most famous self-portrait (both sides on display at the Met). I'm excited to find out what they'll discover under 1/3 of his paintings!

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