Sketch of Van Gogh drawn by his friend found in museum


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The Independent Culture

A portrait of Vincent van Gogh has been discovered in a sketchbook held in a museum archive for more than 45 years.

The previously unknown sketch by French artist Emile Bernard shows Van Gogh sat at a table in a Paris café with two women.

Dorothee Hansen, curator of the exhibition, Emile Bernard: On the Pulse of Modernity, which opens next week at the Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany, identified the portrait. She said: “It was great; it’s a wonderful addition to the collection. There are so few portraits of Van Gogh from this period.”


The curator found the postcard-sized sketch in an album of Bernard’s work that had been held in the museum’s archives since 1970. This sketch had remained undiscovered because the album, containing more than 850 works, was so disordered.

“It was chaos,” Dr Hansen said. “There was no chronology and there were different techniques and styles. It was different to find a way through.” The earliest sketch was made when the artist was 13, and the latest was in his sixties.

Dr Hansen identified the sketch, which was first published in The Art Newspaper, as Van Gogh, a close friend of the artist, and added it was most likely drawn in 1886 or 1887. “It looks really like Van Gogh, especially if you compare the sketch with his self-portraits of 1887. It’s not just the physiognomy but the direct, critical expression,” said the curator.

“We know they were close friends in those days and Van Gogh gave him a self-portrait.”