Two paintings presently shown in the exhibition Millet-Van Gogh at the Orsay Museum in Paris are probably not by Van Gogh's hand, a self-proclaimed specialist for the artist wrote in a letter sent to the daily "Le Monde".
In his letter published on November 19th 1998, Benoit Landais, who has been carrying out a campaign to strike off over a dozen Van Gogh paintings from the catalogue raisonné of his works, said that two paintings showing corn harvesters in the region of Arles were fakes produced by French painter Claude-Emile Schuffenecker whom he claimed was one of the main Van Gogh forgers.
The Millet-Van Gogh exhibition held at the Orsay Museum between September 1998 and January 1999 is aimed at showing the influence of Jean-François Millet over Van Gogh.
The Harvest painting, loaned by the Jerusalem museum, is stiff and flat without the usual coulour shades found in Van Gogh's paintings. In addition, the rather mechanical vertical lines around the harvester are neglecting a constraint to which Van Gogh knew how to face, that is to say reduce the size of the trait when it came to showing a certain distance.
The second Harvest painting, loaned by theToledo (Ohio) Museum of Art shows a man, or a woman ?, with disproportionate shoulders and a clumsy attitude harvesting in a field. Benoit Landais said Schuffenecker experienced some difficulties when it came to paint silhouettes and hands as shown in this painting where one arm, somewhat twisted, seems to hold a sickle whereas the other seems to be equipped with a hook.
The lines in this Toledo painting are unusual and the perspective is clumsily painted if not absurd as a building on the left behind the city seems out of proportions.
Benoit Landais stressed that these paintings were not in the possession of the widow of Van Gogh's brother Theo.
The Harvest canvas from Jerusalem was reputedly painted in June 1888 in Arles. Van Gogh did send two drawings of a similar scene to his friend Emile Bernard and one contained sheaves of corn as in this painting. It is however known that one of these drawings was in the possession of Amédée Schuffenecker, Claude-Emile's brother.
It is therefore probable that Claude-Emile used this drawing for his forgery with the addition of two badly disposed houses.
The case of the Toledo harvest is also as much intriguing since there has been a replica, now in the Stockholm museum, which has been turned down by most experts who presently believe it was painted by Schuffenecker.
All the more, the style of the Toledo Harvest is far from being concomitant with that of the Arles period. "It tallies more with the Auvers period," Landais said.