Important new discoveries about Van Gogh's 'unknown' Sunflower paintings revealed - News - Art - The Independent

Important new discoveries about Van Gogh's 'unknown' Sunflower paintings revealed

 

An expert on Vincent van Gogh has tracked down two “unknown” Sunflowers, and has revealed an image of the work destroyed in the Second World War never seen outside Japan.

Martin Bailey, a Van Gogh specialist and author of The Sunflowers are Mine: The Story of Van Gogh’s Masterpiece, discovered a rare image of the work Six Sunflowers in a portfolio in Japan, which has escaped the attention of art historians. He also tracked down another not seen publicly for over 60 years.

“These are the hidden sunflowers that are never seen,” Mr Bailey said. “Both are fully authentic and accepted by Van Gogh scholars.”

The works were among the four painted in Arles in 1888, a series that included Fifteen Sunflowers, one of the most famous images from the art world. Mr Bailey said: “There is something magic about them and it’s hard to put one’s finger on it.”

That work, which hangs in the National Gallery, remains the top-selling postcard for the institution. Van Gogh painted four original Arles sunflower works – originally intended for Paul Gauguin – and three copies a few months later.

The reproduction found in Japan shows the flowers set against a royal blue background with a bold orange frame designed by the artist himself, which “would have been revolutionary in 1888,” Mr Bailey said.

The painting itself was destroyed in an American bombing raid on Ashiya during the Second World War. While the owner managed to save some possessions, he had to leave the Van Gogh because the frame was so heavy. It was destroyed the same day as the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Mr Bailey has traced a forgotten image, photographed and published in Japan in 1921. “The painting here has never been reproduced properly before,” he said.

The second “unknown” painting – Three Sunflowers – is one that has not been publicly exhibited in living memory. It was last displayed anonymously in 1948 after which it was bought by Greek shipping tycoon George Embiricos, according to Mr Bailey.

It was subsequently sold in the late 1990s to a wealthy, and extremely private collector who holds “a handful” of Van Gogh works. The work has only been reproduced in a handful of publications and is not well known about.

Mr Bailey, who is a correspondent for The Art Newspaper, also revealed that the paintings should not have focused on sunflowers at all. In the book he details how the models due to sit for Van Gogh failed to show up and the weather was not good enough to paint landscapes leaving him to paint the flowers.

He said: “A close reading of his letters revealed he picked on sunflowers because the weather was bad and his models failed to show up. He often had this problem.” He added: “If the model had turned up this picture may have been something else.”

The four original paintings were completed in less than a week, which is twice as fast as had previously been assumed.

The work in the National Gallery avoided the fate of its bombed colleague as it was evacuated during the war to Muncaster Castle in the Lake District. It needed conservation at the time, which was carried out by a German refugee who fled to Britain. Helmut Ruhemann restored it using a cheese grater, wax, a laundry iron and a dentist’s burnishing implement.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week