The name “Van Gogh” is synonymous with artistry and intrigue. With the fame and recognition the artist has achieved, it’s a no-brainer that people from across the world wish to own an original van Gogh painting in their possession. Unfortunately, however, the masterpieces are one of a kind in the world and cost a whopping fortune.
The demand for Van Gogh paintings has made them a target for counterfeiters, with many fake works circulating in the art market. While some fakes may be easy to spot, others can be incredibly convincing, making it difficult to tell the difference between a real Van Gogh and a forgery.
In this blog post, we will explore some ways to tell a real Van Gogh apart from a fake. Whether you are a collector, enthusiast, or just a lover of art, learning how to distinguish between real and fake Van Gogh paintings can deepen your appreciation of his work and help you avoid purchasing a counterfeit piece.
The Provenance of the van Gogh Paintings
Provenance means the documented record of the ownership of a painting which is one of the crucial determinants of whether the painting is authentic or fake with utmost certainty. In addition, having a chronological provenance leads the trace of the painting either back to the artist himself or at least the time period when it was completed. This is important as there have been many owners of Vincent Van Gogh paintings over the decades.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to track the record of the ownership. The good aspect is there are different approaches to determining the provenance of the list of van Gogh paintings’ names. One of the ways is to analyze the auction records thoroughly.
This approach works like magic if the painting is sold at the action because the sale is usually recorded in a catalog or database. So, following the record can lead you to the owner of the painting, trace it back several decades, and determine if the artwork is authentic or a counterfeit.
Many Vincent van Gogh artworks were sold through art galleries that keep a detailed record of their sales with minute details. As a result, galleries played a crucial role in promoting Van Gogh’s art and introducing it to collectors and art enthusiasts.
The most significant of these galleries was the Paris-based Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, which exhibited Van Gogh’s works in a groundbreaking solo exhibition in 1901, just a year after the artist’s death. The exhibition introduced Van Gogh’s art to a wider audience and established his reputation as a significant artist.
Moreover, the records include minute details such as the date of sale, the price, the name of the buyer, and any important comments about the painting’s condition or authenticity. For instance, the gallery records for Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” show that the painting was sold by the artist’s brother, Theo, to the famous art dealer Julien Tanguy in 1890. Tanguy then sold the painting to art collector Émile Schuffenecker in 1890. The painting was later exhibited in Paris in 1901 at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune’s groundbreaking exhibition of Van Gogh’s works. Easy way to trace the provenance of the painting!
Not an easy approach to tracing the Vincent van Gogh paintings, but worth giving a try is following the record of the private collectors. After all, private collectors keep detailed records of their possessions which give a piece of much-needed information about the painting and tick it as an authentic one.
Van Gogh’s Signature
Vincent van Gogh’s signature is one of the most recognizable factors of his paintings and can be a handy hallmark in determining their authenticity. At the same time, it’s important to know that Van Gogh’s signature varied throughout his career, and he signed his artworks in different ways depending on the time and place of their creation.
In some cases, he signed his full name, while in others, he used just his initials. He also used several colors, shapes, and styles of handwriting. So, it’s noteworthy that the artist’s signature alone cannot be used as the only determinant of the painting’s authenticity.
To conclude, if the artwork is original or not, it’s essential to examine the signature with a bird’s eye view to code the consistency of his varied signatures. For example, it could be looking at the angle of strokes or jotting if the pen’s been used or the brushes and examining the pressure applied.
Style and Technique
The Dutch-post Impressionist had a unique style and technique incorporated in his paintings. Look for a bold, vibrant, and rich palette of colors with thick, impasto brushstrokes that give a sense of movement and texture. An important technique to take is he offered applied paint straight from the tube onto the canvas to get a three-dimensional effect.
Vincent van Gogh’s theme of the paintings was primarily dramatic and emotionally charged subjects. He painted landscapes, still lifes, and portraits to express his own intense emotions and the inner turmoil he was experiencing. And this is not something that can be easily replicated.
Not to forget the fact that the artist was very much fascinated by the effects of light. Van Gogh often used it to create extraordinary dramatic contrasts in his paintings. He successfully achieved this with the smart use of light and shadow to create a sense of depth and atmosphere.
When it comes to counterfeit paintings, there may be inconsistencies in style and technique. For example, one can find that the brushstrokes are either too thin or smooth. Or the fact that the colors are more muted than what the artist would have used.
Expert Opinion to the Rescue
If you are unable to determine the authenticity of the Vincent van Gogh paintings despite your persistent effort, you can always seek an expert’s opinion. Art historians, curators, and auction houses have extensive knowledge of his work and can provide insight into the history, style, and technique of a painting.
An expert may also use scientific techniques, such as infrared reflectography, to examine the layers beneath the paint surface and look for evidence of alterations or changes. Again, this gives more credit to the say if the painting is authentic.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to tell a real Van Gogh apart from a fake. A thorough analysis of the provenance, signature, style and technique, subject matter, and seeking expert opinion can all be useful in determining the authenticity of a painting. While it can be difficult to distinguish between real and fake Van Gogh artworks, careful observation and research ensure you are buying an authentic piece of art.