Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles is getting a digital makeover to show what it would have looked like before its colors faded, Chicago scientists say.
The artist painted three versions of this famous scene, using broadly the same color scheme.
However, time and light degradation have taken their toll on the pigments.
Using a variety of techniques, Chicago researchers have digitally restored the light blue walls and door to their original lilac and purple.
The computer visualization is part of a major new exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago, which brings together all three versions for only the second time since Van Gogh produced them.
It is hoped visitors to the exhibition will get a deeper sense of the emotions the 19th Century artist was trying to convey in the works.
“Science is vital in identifying the pigments that have faded, but then there is a lot of interpretation that we rely on from conservators and art historians who really know the hand of the artist, and know how to dial that virtual knob more or less,” explained Dr. Francesca Casadio, Mellon Senior Conservation Scientist at the Chicago institute.
“This is just a visualization of what we think the faded colors looked like, but barring the invention of a time machine it will always still be an approximation.”
Dr. Francesca Casadio was speaking here in Washington at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The Art Institute of Chicago has one of the bedrooms permanently in its collection. The other two are normally held at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
A previously unknown Vincent van Gogh painting has been identified by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Sunset at Montmajour – which depicts trees, bushes and sky – had spent years in a Norwegian private collector’s attic after he had been told the work was not by the Dutch master.
The museum said the painting was authenticated by letters, style and the physical materials used.
It is the first full-size canvas by Vincent van Gogh discovered since 1928.
Museum director Axel Rueger called the discovery a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” at an unveiling ceremony.
Axel Rueger said the institution had previously rejected the painting’s authenticity in the 1990s partly because it was not signed.
However, thanks to new research techniques and a two-year investigation, it concluded the artwork was by the artist.
Researcher Teio Meedendorp said he and other researchers “found answers to all the key questions, which is remarkable for a painting that has been lost for more than 100 years”.
Sunset at Montmajour had spent years in a Norwegian private collector’s attic after he had been told the work was not by Vincent van Gogh
The piece can be dated to the exact day it was painted because Vincent van Gogh described it in a letter to his brother, Theo, saying he had painted it the previous day – on 4 July 1888.
He added he painted it “on a stony heath where small twisted oaks grow”.
The details in the letter had previously been attributed to another of Vincent van Gogh’s works – entitled The Rocks – despite that work missing some of the elements he describes.
But researchers have now identified the location Sunset at Montmajour depicts as being near Montmajour hill, near Arles in France, where the artist was living at the time.
Writing in The Burlington Magazine, Teio Meedendorp said almost all the pigments used in the artwork were ones he “habitually had on his palette at this time”, including a cobalt blue he began using from the summer of 1887 onwards.
The painting was also listed among Theo van Gogh’s collection as number 180 – and that number can still be seen on the back of the canvas.
After the work was sold in 1901, it apparently vanished until it re-appeared in the estate of Norwegian industrialist Christian Nicolai Mustad upon his death in 1970.
According to Mustad’s family, the French ambassador to Sweden visited the collector soon after he bought the painting and suggested it was fake or had been wrongly attributed.
Consequently, Christian Nicolai Mustad banished the piece to the attic.
After his death, the collector’s family contacted the Van Gogh museum in 1991 to verify its authenticity, but it was eventually decided it was not by the artist.
The painting will be on display at the museum from September 24.