November 15, 2016 / 8:00 PM / 3 years ago

Van Gogh museum dismisses claim discovered sketchbook authentic

PARIS (Reuters) - The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam has dismissed an art historian’s claim that a collection of discovered sketches were drawn by the Dutch artist, saying they were imitations.

Copies of the book "Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook" are displayed during a news conference about a lost sketchbook by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, in Paris, France, November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

At a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov presented “Vincent Van Gogh, The Lost Arles Sketchbook”, a book showing prints of dozens of drawings the University of Toronto professor and Van Gogh specialist say are by the artist.

Welsh-Ovcharov and publishers Seuil say the sketches are from the post-impressionist painter’s move to Arles in the south of France in 1888. However, the Amsterdam museum, a leading authority on the “Sunflowers” and “The Harvest” artist, said its experts disagree after looking at pictures of the works.

“The Van Gogh museum had seen a high definition set of drawings as photographs,” Welsh-Ovcharov told reporters.

“Now, when I was a university professor and I taught courses on connoisseurship and on art history, that is the worst thing anyone can do - to tell me that they made a decision on what is a work of art by a photograph.”

The museum, which counts some 500 Van Gogh drawings and four of his sketchbooks, said it had known “for some time” of the album, adding its experts had studied “high-quality” photographs of 56 drawings, out of a total 65, sent to them.

“Their opinion, based on years of research on Van Gogh’s drawings in the museum’s own collection and elsewhere ... is that these album drawings are imitations of Van Gogh’s drawings,” it said.

“The experts examined its style, technique and iconography, and among their conclusions were that it contains distinctive topographical errors and that its maker based it on discolored drawings by Van Gogh.”

Welsh-Ovcharov said she was called while in France to look at a sketchbook found in a storeroom in Arles which had come to the attention of Franck Baille, who manages an auction house in Paris, to verify whether it was by Van Gogh.

“I looked at it and ... it was an ‘OMG’ moment, oh my God, and I said it’s not possible, I’ve seen many Van Goghs that were supposedly Van Goghs and they weren’t,” she said.

“And I looked at it and I saw all the things that Van Gogh stands for in terms of reed-pen brushwork, graphite underground work, the whole possible elements,” she said, adding she had the drawings verified by various specialists.

Reporting By Miranda Alexander-Webber; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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