CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Van Gogh? Onderzoek naar twee vrouwenportretten

Van Gogh? An examination of two female portraits Presentation: 31 October 2008 - 20 September 2009

From the museum website, 22 September 2008

This presentation focuses on two traditional female portraits in the Van Gogh Museum’s collection. The emphasis lies on the exciting and in-depth research undertaken into these two portraits, which are barely known to the general public. Which art-historical and technical investigation can be carried out as regards dating and attribution? Were these female portraits painted by Van Gogh or not? And in which period exactly did they originate? Issues such as style and content, comparison to other works and research into the pigments used are dealt with extensively.

Van Gogh’s studio practice

Together with partner in science Shell and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), the Van Gogh Museum is conducting technical and art-historical research into the work practices of Van Gogh and his contemporaries. Every year the researchers give a presentation based on the results of their findings.

Moreover a Van Gogh project forms part of the bigger De Mayerne Program funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific research (NWO). Key topics studied within this program include the composition and deterioration of paints used in Van Gogh’s French works, as well as French documentary sources on the manufacture, composition, and supply of painting materials used by Van Gogh and his contemporaries. Together these projects have provided significant new insights into Van Gogh’s studio practice.

The project Van Gogh’s studio practice in context examines the accumulated information within a broader setting. It takes a closer look at Van Gogh’s working methods, the varied sources of his knowledge and ideas, and links between his studio practice and that of contemporaries and colleagues. The research focuses on artists whom Van Gogh actually met (including Mauve, Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac and Gauguin) and artists whose oeuvre and working methods he admired and knew well (Monticelli, Delacroix and Millet).

The art-historical research follows the chronology of Van Gogh’s career and concentrates on cataloguing and studying textbooks and other sources from which Van Gogh and his contemporaries – in and out of the academies – gathered their information. The technical research will examine a wide range of works that Van Gogh himself would have known and perhaps studied.

The project may result in a new vision of nineteenth-century studio practice, and moreover enable an art-historical reconstruction of the working methods of the artists concerned. A publication will explain findings in a detailed yet accessible manner that is suited to a broad public.The results are explained in all its complexity, yet will be nevertheless accessible in a publication written by specialists. An exhibition is planned in order to present the results to a wider audience. The project is planned to continue until October 2009.

Project leaders

Sjraar van Heugten
Ella Hendriks


René Boitelle
Roelie Zwikker