The Van Gogh Museum is home to over 200 paintings and almost 500 drawings by Vincent van Gogh. Systematic scientific study of these works began in the 1990s, the results of which are being published in a series of seven collection catalogues.
Six of these have appeared so far – four devoted to the drawings and two to the paintings. The final instalment, currently in preparation, focuses on the paintings from the final years of Van Gogh’s life (1888–90), when he lived in Arles, Saint-Rémy and lastly Auvers-sur-Oise. This was the period in which he painted some of his greatest masterpieces, including The Bedroom and Sunflowers. Publication is scheduled for 2020.
Researchers are exploring the art-historical aspects of Van Gogh’s paintings, as well as their physical and technical characteristics. The work is being carried out by scientists and restorers from the museum itself, in collaboration with staff from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and and the Shell Technological Centre Amsterdam (STCA). Shell is the Van Gogh Museum’s Partner in Science. Researchers from the museum are responsible for the art-historical aspect of the study, while the restorers focus on the scientific analysis of the paintings, using microscopes, UV and infrared light, and X-ray images.
Experts from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, meanwhile, are analysing paint samples to discover which pigments were used and how the paintings were structured. Innovative, non-invasive research techniques are also being used to identify which paints Van Gogh worked with.
The Shell Technological Centre Amsterdam is investigating more specific questions: the STCA research team’s highly advanced equipment gives them a detailed insight, for example, into the chemical composition of the pigments and that of the ground and varnish layers.
Marije Vellekoop (head of Collection and Research): firstname.lastname@example.org