• gerard van weyenbergh

Two drawings by Vincent Van Gogh, in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, fake?

A Belgian journalist investigated the origin of two drawings attributed to Vincent Van Gogh, kept at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. According to him, both works are false. The head of research at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam agrees with her findings.

False drawings by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) in the National Gallery of Art in Washington? This is what journalist Yves Vasseur affirms, with the approval of Marije Vellekoop, head of research at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, in his book Questions of identity, to be published in the coming days. Two sketches attributed to the Dutch artist showing the Zandmennik and Magros houses in the Borinage region relate "The Art Newspaper ". These leaves were discovered in 1958 in an attic in Cuesmes, where Van Gogh lived from 1879 to 1880 and worked as a preacher. The Belgian mining town is considered to be the cradle of the painter's artistic career.

Drawings donated to the National Gallery of Art in 1990

Authenticated by Vincent Willem Van Gogh, the artist's great-grand-nephew, the drawings discovered are included in the reference work by Jacob Baart de la Faille, the first catalog raisonné of Van Gogh's work , before to be auctioned at Christie's in 1970. Bought by Armand Hammer, the collector and art dealer donated it to the National Gallery of Art at the time of his death in 1990. Since then, the two drawings have been preserved in the American institution.

An unusual signature and style for Van Gogh

Like a detective, the journalist contacted the descendants of Samuel Delsaut, the man who had found the drawings in his attic, to review their family archives. These unveiled "a romantic imbroglio" which put the chip in the ear of Yves Vasseur. Indeed, in 1958, Samuel Delsaut had claimed to be the grandson of the former owner of Vincent Van Gogh to whom the artist would have given these sketches as rent. In reality, he is nothing but a great-nephew. If man embellished the story that links him to works, perhaps he also lied about their creator?


© National Museum Washington

Besides the designs' dubious origin, Yves Vasseur also underlines the unusual "VG" signature. Indeed, the artist more commonly signed his works with his first name "Vincent" and not with his initials. Likewise, stylistically, the houses' features are more accomplished than one might expect from the artist if we compare them to his rare other Borinage sketches, like Miners in the Snow (1880 ), kept at the Kröller Müller Museum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Delsaut's attic drawings are more like the drawings of his uncle Elie Delsaut (1869-1949), also an amateur artist. Incredible coincidence or essential proof: the drawings attributed to Van Gogh were found in a file bearing the same relative's name.

The journalist does not certify the false character of the two works. He underlines the absence of an examination carried out by the museum and their shaky authenticity, which is based solely on the statements of Samuel Delsaut and the declaration of the back- grand-nephew of the painter. For now, the National Gallery of Art in Washington has not publicly reacted to Yves Vasseur's work. The American institution prefers to study the drawings and carry out its own research before expressing itself on the case.

© Connaissance des arts