A Real Van Gogh

How the Art World Struggles with Truth

Henk Tromp

A Real Van Gogh

Henk Tromp

Distributed for Amsterdam University Press

351 pages | 42 color plates | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2010
Paper $54.50 ISBN: 9789089641762 Published December 2010 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada

In 1928, after eleven years of extensive research and editing, Dr. Jacob Baart de la Faille finally finished the first catalogue raisonné of Vincent van Gogh’s work. Soon after, however, de la Faille discovered that he had mistakenly listed dozens of forged works as genuine in the catalog. He quickly set out to set the record straight but was met with strong resistance from art dealers, collectors, critics, politicians, amongst others—all of whom had self-interested reasons to oppose his corrections.

To this day, the international art world struggles to separate the real Van Goghs from the fake. A Real Van Gogh begins with the story of de la Faille and moves into the late decades of the twentieth century, outlining the numerous clashes over the authenticity of Van Gogh’s works while simultaneously exposing the often bewildering ramifications for art critics and scholars when they bring unwelcome news.

Dramatis personae

1    An eye for an eye
2    True colors
3    Hushing up
4    For art’s sake
5    The expert tamed
6    Retaliation
7    An uneasy legacy
8    Between a rock and a hard place
9    Among art experts
10  The gift
11  The unfinished Vincent

Index of names
Review Quotes
Gary Schwartz

“This is research of a kind that is seldom performed by art historians, who are more interested in whether a given work is genuine or not than in the process by which opinions are formed. Time after time, Tromp discovers that key agents allow their judgment to be guided by their own financial interest. In day-to-day practice, the ethics of this behavior is not questioned either in the courts, the art trade or the art-historical literature.”

Modris Eksteins, University of Toronto

“Based on prodigious research, Henk Tromp’s work provides a fascinating case study of the problem of authenticity. This question of what is real and what is true extends far beyond the realm of art history and may be the most difficult cultural and moral issue all of us face today.”

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