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Unseen Van Gogh Portrait, Mystery Van Gogh Portrait
Van Gogh's "Patch of Grass"

Art and Science Unite in Breakthrough Discovery of Van Gogh Portrait

July 31, 2008 01:24 PM
by Rachel Balik
A portrait of a woman has been found underneath Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Patch of Grass,” using cutting-edge X-ray technology.

30-Second Summary

Art historian and materials scientist Joris Dik and chemist Koen Janssens used high-intensity X-rays generated by a particle accelerator to recreate a high-quality image of a peasant woman concealed by the artist’s painting “Patch of Grass.” “I was really surprised by the quality of the image, which is really promising for the future of research,” Dutch Van Gogh expert Teio Meedendorp said.

Previously, X-rays were used to study painted-over works but could produce only a “fuzzy, black-and-white image,” the Associated Press reports. The scientists hope that the new technology will provide an avenue to study Van Gogh’s oeuvre, as one-third of his early works are thought to have been painted over by later works, because Van Gogh could not always afford fresh canvases. Other masters, such as Rembrandt and Picasso, also painted over their work.

The researchers wrote that, “our approach literally opens up new vistas in the nondestructive study of hidden paint layers.”

The technology will help art historians learn more about painters’ methodology. Experts believe this portrait of a peasant woman used the same model as Van Gogh’s masterpiece, “The Potato Eaters.”

Headline Links: Scientists recreate hidden Van Gogh portrait

Historical Context: Understanding Van Gogh’s oeuvre

Reference: Analyzing ‘Patch of Grass,’ ‘The Potato Eaters’ and Van Gogh


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