Found: A Dead Bug in a Van Gogh Painting


Van Gogh painted Olive Trees in 1889, the year after his falling out with his friend Gauguin which may have led to the most famous act of self-mutilation in the history of art: cutting off his own ear. For over a century, it went unnoticed in the finished work, "Olive Trees" (1889), now owned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, but a recent study by the museum's curators, conservators, and outside scientists has revealed its old, brown carcass.

Locating the grasshopper's remains required magnification and a sharp eye.

Ultimately, the grasshopper didn't yield enough clues to pinpoint when Olive Trees was created. "And we know that he... dealt with wind, and dust, grass and trees, and flies and grasshoppers".

Van Gogh was an artist who was very much fond of painting outdoors, and experts believe that the critter might have accidentally landed on the canvas during the time of painting.

In a discovery that makes Vincent Van Gogh suddenly strangely relatable, a conservator has spotted a dead bug stuck in one of his paintings. The Museum, which studied the picture, said that the paintings, which were written in the open air, often have fragments of various small insects under a layer of paint, so the find is not unusual.

Museum visitors aren't going to be able to see the grasshopper parts, but they're there. He had written about the perils of painting outdoors in a 1885 letter to his brother Theo. "Olive Trees" is one of the most acclaimed works of the artist, and now, researchers have figured out one unknown peculiarity associated with this painting. The lack of movement in the surrounding paint suggests that the grasshopper made no attempt to escape, so the insect was presumably already dead when it became embedded.

"Van Gogh worked outside in the elements", Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, which houses the painting, told the Kansas City Star.



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