Hidden beauty

A story I read recently in the Globe has been on my mind and I had to go back and find it.
For years, art scholars pondered a mystery: Did Vincent van Gogh create a painting that matches a sketch in Amsterdam's van Gogh Museum?

Now a conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts has discovered the lost painting, but museum goers will never be able to see it: The painting lies underneath another van Gogh long on display at the MFA, the museum announced yesterday.

The Dutch master created the lost painting, "Wild Vegetation," in 1889, during his stay at an asylum near Saint-Remy, France. The hidden work was found by chance when conservator Meta Chavannes X-rayed the MFA's painting, "The Ravine," about a year ago as part of a research project.

Chavannes found evidence of an image that didn't match "The Ravine," a moody landscape with swirling brush strokes of blue, gray, and green. A few weeks later, Chavannes shared the X-ray with Louis van Tilborgh, a curator at the Van Gogh Museum. He immediately recognized the image as being similar to a drawing in the museum's collection.

Van Gogh had sent the drawing, a riotous depiction of flowers and wildlife, to his brother, Theo, an art dealer in Paris...

In his early years, van Gogh often reused canvases or turned them over and painted on the other side to make the most of his limited funds. But by 1889, a year before his death, he was being supported by his brother. Van Gogh painted over "Wild Vegetation" not because he couldn't afford to buy another canvas but because Theo was slow to send along new canvases...

Read the whole story here.

Some people live their lives the way van Gogh used his canvas. Buried in the moody grays and blues of a ravine lies wild vegetation, a veritable riot of flowers and wildlife painted over by hurt, disappointment and God knows what experiences thick enough with pain to obscure something bright and beautiful. How unfortunate, in the comparative illustrations above, that the lush is dulled and the ravine almost brightens... It took an x-ray to discover what lay hidden in Vincent's ravine. Perhaps all we need to do is to look more carefully at the lives of those around us -and at our own canvases- to see through to the life that may be just below the surface, the beauty that longs for the light of day.

The headline on this article read Mystery Painting Stays Hidden Under Another. Such mysteries deserve to be explored and solved lest their secret beauty be lost.

It's likely that each of us will pass by some hidden masterpieces in the gallery of this day's experience. Let's keep our eyes open...

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