The new technique—synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy—goes beyond X-ray radiography, which has been used successfully to discover other concealed paintings. An international research team from the Netherlands and Belgium are credited with discovering the portrait.
For a time van Gogh worked as a missionary in a mining region. His fondness for these hardworking people shows in his first major painting, The Potato Eaters. Van Gogh accused his art dealer brother of not pushing his works more, but buyers of bright Impressionist paintings weren’t interested in the drab portraits of the local poor.
Van Gogh believed becoming an artist was a spiritual calling. Although he painted for only ten years and sold one painting during his lifetime, his paintings are some of the most recognized and admired paintings in the world today. He died in Auvres, France, two days after shooting himself in the chest with a pistol. Theo died six months later of syphilis while in the Netherlands, and his body was sent to France to be buried next to his brother. Their remarkable relationship of support and encouragement is documented in their letters.
Van Gogh’s sister-in-law, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, inherited his estate after Theo’s death, and was instrumental in Van Gogh’s posthumous worldwide fame.
On a side note, the van Gogh family lost another member in 2004 to tragic circumstances. Theo's great-grandson, the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri on an Amsterdam street while bicycling to work. A critic of Islam who received death threats for his film exposing the mistreatment of women in Islamic culture, he called America the "last beacon of hope in a darkening world."
Check the JCLC catalog for more on Vincent and Theo van Gogh. The Arts, Literature & Sports Department at Central Library has 4 van Gogh art prints that check out for 60 days: Irises, Olive Trees, Sidewalk Cafe at Night, and Sunflowers. And don't miss Robert Altman's Vincent and Theo, starring Tim Roth as Vincent. It opens with an auctioneer's voice announcing bidding prices in the millions as images of van Gogh's paintings appear; Vincent could only give them away when alive. Kirk Douglas also played the temperamental painter in Lust for Life.