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Will Van Gogh’s Flowers Ever Wilt?

Lecture by Fellow Dr Ashok Roy

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

In the later part of 1888 and early the following year, Vincent Van Gogh produced three-closely related versions of Sunflowers in a Vase, each on a bright yellow background – in his words these were: ‘absolutely equivalent and identical repetitions’ of the composition. Two of these paintings are in the collections of the National Gallery in London and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. These two paintings have been the subject of a long-running research collaboration between the museums, but it is only recently that crucial comparative information based on imaging studies has been acquired to finally establish their relationship and order of painting. The story involves a third painting, now in a collection in Japan, the attribution of which has been called into question. At the same time, as a result of research into the behaviour and stability of certain 19th-century painting materials, new concerns have been raised over the long-term preservation of Van Gogh’s pictures which has engendered a debate among curators and conservators as to the best methods for the future care of these vulnerable works. Our concern is to ensure these famous great works of 19th-century painting continue, in Van Gogh’s description, ‘to blaze forth’ for future generations of beholders.

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