New Van Gogh painting discovered in attic

AMSTERDAM The Van Gogh Museum says it has identified a long-lost Vincent Van Gogh painting that spent years in a Norwegian attic because it was thought not to be authentic. It is the first full-size canvas by the Dutch master discovered since 1928.

"Sunset at Montmajour" depicts a dry landscape of oak trees, bushes and sky, painted with Van Gogh's familiar thick brush strokes. It can be dated to the exact day it was painted because Vincent described it in a letter to his brother, Theo, and said he painted it the previous day — July 4, 1888.

He said the painting was done "on a stony heath where small twisted oaks grow."

"Sunset at Montmajour" (1888), which experts have verified is an authentic Van Gogh.
Van Gogh Museum

Museum experts said the painting was authenticated by Van Gogh's letters, the style and the physical materials used, and they had traced its history.

Museum director Axel Rueger described the discovery as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" at an unveiling ceremony.

The life and death of Vincent van Gogh, part 1
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
CBS News

"This is a great painting from what many see as the high point of his artistic achievement, his period in Arles, in southern France," he said. "In the same period he painted works such as 'Sunflowers,' 'The Yellow House' and 'The Bedroom.' "

The museum said the painting now belongs to an unidentified private collector and will be on display at the museum from Sept. 24.

It did not disclose full details of how the painting had been recovered, but said that it had been owned by a Norwegian man who had been told it was not by Van Gogh, so it languished for years in his family's attic.

Rueger said the museum had itself rejected the painting's authenticity once in the 1990s, in part because it was not signed by the artist.

But a new two-year investigation had convinced them, with new techniques of chemical analysis of the pigments showing they were identical to others Van Gogh used on his palette at Arles — including typical discolorations.

Meanwhile, an X-ray examination of the canvas showed it was of the same type Van Gogh used on other paintings from the period, such as "The Rocks," which hangs in Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.