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Painting unusual for Van Gogh — but experts authenticate it

"Le Blute-Fin Mill," on display in Zwolle, Netherlands, was painted when Vincent Van Gogh lived in Paris.
"Le Blute-Fin Mill," on display in Zwolle, Netherlands, was painted when Vincent Van Gogh lived in Paris.
Associated Press

AMSTERDAM — Dirk Hannema was known as a brilliant art curator but a bit of a fool. He claimed he had seven Vermeers in his collection, several Van Goghs and a few Rembrandts, but no one believed him.

Now, 25 years after his death, it turned out he was right — about one work by Vincent van Gogh.

The painting, "Le Blute-Fin Mill," went on public display Wednesday in the small Museum de Fundatie in the central Dutch town of Zwolle.

Louis van Tilborgh, curator of research at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, said the painting was unusual for the 19th century impressionist, depicting large human figures in a landscape. The painting shows Parisians on wooden stairs to a windmill in the Montmartre district.

But the work was typical of Van Gogh's at that time in other ways, with its bright colors lathered roughly on the canvas. Van Tilborgh said it was painted in 1886 when the artist was living in Paris. The canvas bore the stamp of an art store he was known to frequent, and used pigments that were common in other works, van Tilborgh said.

The painting "adds to his oeuvre," the curator told The Associated Press. "You can link it to certain works of Van Gogh in that period, but not that many of them," he said.

It is the first Van Gogh to be authenticated since 1995 and the sixth to be added to the confirmed list of the artist's paintings since the latest edition of the standard catalog was published in 1970, van Tilborgh said.

Van Gogh painted about 900 works in his brief career. Afflicted by mental illness, he died of a self-inflicted wound in 1890 at age 37.

Hannema bought the painting in 1975 from an antique and art dealer in Paris who did not believe it was of much value. But the Dutch collector did. He paid 5,000 Dutch guilders for this and another unknown work, or about $2,700, but immediately insured the painting for 16 times what he paid.

Hannema touted the painting with "absolute certainty" as a Van Gogh, but no one was listening. He had been discredited since he bought a Vermeer in 1937 that later was shown to be a forgery.