Van Gogh's studio practice: Canvases re-used

KABK students and the AR Lab contributed to this exhibition. The opening is 21 June 2011 at 18.30 hrs, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. In September 2011 a group of students will once again contribute to this exhibition on the re-use of canvases by Van Gogh. For the project Re-Use of Canvases, part of the Van Gogh Studio's practice research programme, the AR Lab was invited to contribute. In 2010, the AR Lab elaborated on the idea of our first Van Gogh project, The Bedroom, by students Mathijs Munnik and Arjen Zuidgeest. At that time we used a spray can to unravel the hidden elements of the canvases. Now the AR Lab is supporting student Koen Mostert, who made a tool that enables you to see what is underneath the painting by touching an iPad screen. This is done for five paintings, with a separate iPad for each painting.

© René Gerritsen

10 June 2011 - 10 June 2012

Vincent van Gogh regularly made a painting on a canvas he had used before. He began doing this in May of 1885, when he was still living in Nuenen, and continued this practice in his Paris years (1886-1888). At first he painted directly over the first composition, but gradually went to work differently depending on his ideas for a given painting. Sometimes he used the relief or the colours of the first image in the new painting, but if he wanted to make a thinly painted work requiring a smooth and even surface, he would thoroughly scrape off the first depiction. In some instances, he is also known to have covered the first scene with an opaque layer: a light one for a bright and transparently painted view of Paris, and a dark one for a subdued forest scene.

Various working methods

This presentation examines these various working methods on the basis of paintings such as Nude girl sitting, Self-portrait with pipe, and Basket of pansies. When re-using certain canvases, Van Gogh applied a particular kind of covering layer that caused the condition of the painted scene on it to deteriorate over the years. Attention is also given to this aspect.



From left to right: Nude girl sitting, 1886; Trees and Undergrowth, 1887; Basket of pansies, 1887; and Self portrait with pipe, 1886. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Follow the developments

The investigation into Van Gogh’s re-use of canvases is part of a large project entitled 'Van Gogh’s studio practice.' A multidisciplinary team (comprising staff from the Van Gogh Museum, the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency and Shell) is examining every imaginable facet of Van Gogh’s artistic process and comparing it with that of his contemporaries. The objective is to gain greater insight into Van Gogh’s working method and to place it in the context of his time. You can follow the developments of this investigation at:

Lecture on Sunday 12 June 2011

Van Gogh's studio practice: Canvases re-used (in Dutch), by Ella Hendriks, head of conservation at the Van Gogh Museum, and Muriel Geldof, researcher at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.