But… One of the main masterpieces of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts is still languishing locked up: it is in such a fragile state that even moving it from building to building is an unjustified risk. However, they promise to fix everything soon: the museum has already started restoring this most important canvas by Van Gogh.
“Red Vineyards” entered the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in 1948. Since then, this masterpiece of world painting has never left the walls of the museum. A deplorable future, oddly enough, was predetermined by the artist himself to his creation.
Instead of a canvas, he took a piece of ordinary coarse burlap, he himself primed it not very well. Van Gogh did not allow the work to dry out – he hurriedly rolled it into a tube and sent it to Paris. The strokes were crushed, the canvas was imprinted… Brother Theo also had a hand: pulling the canvas on the stretcher (he was preparing it for participation in the Salon of twenty), caused damage. You can still notice them now.
All these details became known to the restorers literally in a month that the painting is in the workshop. For the first time in 130 years, it will not just be restored and will try to bring it into a safe state, but will also be studied using the most modern methods. The first close look showed that the story of “Red Vineyards” is a real detective story.
– We found a colorful layer on the back – there was another picture, which one – we don’t know yet. Another interesting detail was revealed by the X-ray-Van Gogh wrote “Red Vineyards” not in one session. For example, the female figure was later converted by him into a male one. Why – we can only guess, – Igor Borodin, head of the Department of restoration and conservation of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, reveals the secrets.
For the whole world of art, this plot with the harvest of grapes is important not only because of the name of its author. Another interesting and, importantly, documented fact is that this is the only painting bought during Van Gogh’s lifetime. But that’s not the point either. And in what? Alexey Petukhov, senior researcher at the Department of European and American Art of the XIX-XX centuries, says:
– This painting represents the highest point of the development of Van Gogh’s talent, it recorded for us his rise. This is an embodied idea, an embodied dream of an ideal community of artists. In 1888, Van Gogh decided to create a “Workshop of the South”, and Paul Gauguin became its first participant. The grapes are harvested in Arles in October, the artist has already seen this plot and even painted “Green Vineyards”, but probably at the insistence of Gauguin, he returned to this motif again, strengthening the colors and the meaning of each element.
Another discovery: initially, the canvas, which is still distinguished by a riot of colors, was even brighter and made an even more stunning impression. The reason is the chemical composition of the paints. Under the influence of ultraviolet light, over time, they noticeably darkened.
The restorers have just started working, but they already have no doubt that the “Red Vineyards” are fraught with many secrets. Two documentaries will tell about them and about the most unique process of studying the masterpiece – one is shot by the museum itself, and the other is directed by the famous director Ivan Vdovin. In addition, you can monitor the work of specialists on a specially created website, which will gradually be filled in the course of research. Even now, you can learn the history of the painting there, examine it in detail in color and on an X-ray, and even see the first micrographs of the paint layer.
It is planned to complete the restoration at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts by the spring of next year – the canvas should appear at the grand exhibition of the collection of the Morozov brothers.
Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts:
– “Red Vineyards in Arles” is a kind of icon that is constantly under our close supervision. I am always very sorry for her: despite the fact that Van Gogh is one of the most beloved and popular artists, despite the fact that his exhibitions are held annually in different museums and countries, we can never afford to show our masterpiece. He stays at home because of the impossibility of transportation. It is generally difficult with Van Gogh: the technology of creating his works was quite complex – he used cheap paints, used them very widely, and therefore his paintings are more susceptible to destruction than others. Now we have a hope to see the “Red Vineyards” in a safe form for them, and I really believe that as a result, the picture will be able to travel at least inside the walls of our museum. And maybe she will even be able to step over the walls of Moscow and find herself where she is so expected.
1. Arles, where Van Gogh painted “Red Vineyards”, can be called the place of the artist’s strength. In less than a year and a half in this city in the south of France, he painted more than 200 paintings. Yes, and the famous “Self-portrait with a bandaged ear”, “Starry Night”, “Night Cafe” were also created here.
2. “Red Vineyards in Arles” is the only painting (and this is a documented fact) that was bought during Van Gogh’s lifetime. In 1890, it was purchased by Anna Bosch, an artist and philanthropist, and our collector Morozov already bought the canvas from her.
3. Less than six months after the completion of work on the “Vineyards”, Van Gogh will be admitted to a hospital for the mentally ill in Saint-Remy-de-Provence near Arles.