Painting kept in attic and thought to be fake identified as long-lost Van Gogh
But when the museum took a fresh look at the work in 2011, they had the advantage of a newly edited and published compendium of all Van Gogh's letters, and were able for the first time to identify the exact location "Sunset" depicts: Monmajour hill, near Arles, France. The ruins of Monmajour abbey can be seen in the background on the left side of the painting.
Van Gogh mentioned the painting in two other letters the same summer.
The number 180 on the back of the canvas was an important clue, and new techniques of chemical analysis of the pigments showing they were identical to others Van Gogh used on his palette at Arles — including typical discolorations.
Meanwhile, an X-ray examination of the canvas showed it was of the same type Van Gogh used on other paintings from the period, such as "The Rocks," which hangs in Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.
Rueger described "Sunset" as ambitious, because the canvas is relatively large, at 93.3 by 73.3 centimeters (36.7 by 28.9 inches) — and because Van Gogh himself felt the result didn't live up to his imagination of what it was meant to be.
The artist made similar remarks about some of his most famous paintings, including the 1889 "Starry Night" that hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Meedendorp said that "Sunset" belongs "to a special group of experimental works that Van Gogh at times esteemed of lesser value than we tend to do nowadays."
Meedendorp said it's not impossible that another unknown or lost Van Gogh could be found someday. The artist destroyed some works himself when he wasn't satisfied with the results, but others that are mentioned in his letters or early collection of his work have since disappeared. He is believed to have completed more than 800 works, painting at an accelerating pace before his death aged 37.
The Van Gogh Museum, which houses 140 paintings, receives more than a million visitors annually. Van Gogh paintings are among the most valuable in the world, selling for tens of millions of dollars on the rare occasions one is sold at an auction.
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