Senior researchers of the Van Gogh Museum have been able to attribute two still lifes from the Paris period of Van Gogh to the painter with greater certainty. The two paintings are Still life with Fruit and Chestnuts from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Vase with Poppies from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.
Still life with Fruit and Chestnuts
After over half a decade of doubt about the authenticity Still Life with Fruit and Chestnuts our Senior Researchers have determined that this still life from the autumn of 1886 is indeed by Vincent van Gogh.
Feel the autumn
You can feel the autumn when looking at this modest painting. On top of a pile of chestnuts lie a red-and-green apple and a red pear with a green pear upside down in between; red and green being complementary colors. The authenticity has been confirmed based on information concerning style, technique and also provenance; it is mentioned in the inventory list of Theo van Gogh’s collection of 1890.
Style, color scheme and subject matter
Traditionally it was assumed that this work was painted during Van Gogh's stay in Nuenen, and hence the doubts. One of the arguments for re-attribution the work to Vincent van Gogh was the fact that Still Life with Fruit and Chestnuts most closely resembles the Paris Autumn still life Prawns and mussels (dated September - Novemer 1886) from Van Gogh in terms of style, color scheme and subject matter.
Also, the small size of Prawns and mussels (of 26.5 x 34.8 cm) is very similar compared to the Still life with fruit and chestnuts (26.8 x 35.2 cm), and we find the same brown background, but now with brightly colored seafood on top. One may consider them pendants, as it were, both paintings displaying a quick and steady hand, working wet in wet with the same buttery consistency of the paint and a similar size of brushstrokes.
New subject matter
Van Gogh probably wanted to continue the experiments with color and brushwork from his flower still lifes earlier that summer, but was forced to choose different subject matter because there were less flowers around in autumn. This resulted in subjects such as fruit and seafood.
Vase with Poppies
The attribution of the painting Vase with Poppies of The Wadsworth Atheneum to Vincent van Gogh, has also been confirmed by researchers of the Van Gogh Museum. Doubts were raised in the nineties of the last century, but recent research showed stylistic similarities with a group of flower still lifes the artist made shortly after arriving to Paris in the spring of 1886.
Exercises in colour and style
These works were exercises in the use of colour and a loose style of painting and he hoped the vibrant bouquets would do well on the art market. This simple composition of bright red poppies in a vase clearly belongs to that campaign.
In attributing this painting, a very important fact were the many stylistic characteristics that the Hartford still life has in common with Still life with meadow flowers and roses from the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo.
Van Gogh's working practice
The backgrounds resemble one another, showing rounded, halo like blue brushstrokes, varying in light and dark according to the light fall. The way of depicting the poppies is the same too, mixing different red pigments. The buds and a few wilting ones hovering around the bouquets are similarly painted as well, as are the stringy long green brushstrokes of the individual stems. Furthermore, the lower parts of the paintings in Otterlo and Hartford reflect the colour harmony of the bouquets, and this is also in keeping with Van Gogh’s working practice.
What counts for the one, counts for the other
The two paintings are so similar that if the one is not regarded authentic, the other subsequently follows. Vice versa is true as well: if the one is regarded authenthic, the other follows. Interestingly the work in Otterlo was dismissed as an authentic work in 2003 and has been reattributed to Van Gogh in 2012 after new research. As many individual features are indeed the same, Vase with Poppies is thus painted by Van Gogh as well.