A painting attributed to Vincent Van Gogh for more than 70 years was said to be a fake Friday, after art experts found it was probably painted by one his peers.
The director of Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria, Gerard Vaughan, said a specialist team at the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands found the painting had strong stylistic differences from the Dutch artist’s other works, and was mostly likely painted by one of his contemporaries.
The painting, “Head of a Man,” was brought to Australia in 1939 as part of a contemporary art exhibit owned by Keith Murdoch, father of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
The piece became stranded in Australia with the outbreak of World War II, and the gallery bought it in 1940 for around $3,500.
“It was purchased as a Van Gogh work, and had been accepted as a Van Gogh for more than a decade before the (gallery’s) purchase,” Vaughan said in a statement.
He stressed the painting had simply been misattributed to Van Gogh.
“It is very important to make the point that it’s not a forgery,” he told reporters. “There is no evidence to suggest that someone produced this picture ... to pass it off as a work by Van Gogh.”
The painting’s authenticity was first called into question last August when it was on show at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland. Critics said the work, dated 1886, was of a different style to other Van Gogh paintings of the same period and was not mentioned in any of the Dutch master’s letters.
When the exhibit closed, the National Gallery of Victoria sent the painting — a portrait of a bearded, curly haired man against a brownish background — to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for verification.
As a Van Gogh, the painting had been valued at around $21 million.