A Real Van Gogh?
An Unsolved Art World Mystery

In 1948, William Goetz, the famed Hollywood producer, head of Universal Pictures, and legendary art collector, purchased a painting attributed to Vincent Van Gogh for $50,000. Although it was acquired from a reputable art dealer and deemed genuine by a prominent Van Gogh expert at the time, debate about the painting’s authenticity ignited an art world controversy that impacted U.S. foreign affairs.

For decades, only a handful of people knew the whereabouts of the painting, known as Study by Candlelight. Today, the Goetz family heirs hope to learn more about the provenance of the painting by drawing upon recent scientific developments in the study of artist materials and working methods.

In presenting this exhibition, the Nevada Museum of Art makes no attempt to determine the authenticity of the legendary painting. Rather, the exhibition re-visits its extraordinary story through archival documents, correspondence, photographs, and press materials that have never before been brought together in one place. The exhibition will look closely at the Goetz family’s Hollywood lifestyle and legendary art collection, assess what is known about the provenance of Study by Candlelight, consider the painting within the stylistic and historical context of Van Gogh’s body of work, and report on the art world controversies and international politics that have surrounded the painting.

This unique presentation invites viewers and scholars to draw their own conclusions and weigh in on this great Van Gogh debate.

Lead sponsorship by I. Heidi Loeb Hegerich and the Bretzlaff Foundation. Major sponsorship by Bally Technologies and Wells Fargo. Supporting sponsorship by Gabelli Funds. Additional support by Jeanne and Alan Blach, John and Andrea Deane, John H.O. La Gatta, and Jennifer L. Patterson. In-kind support provided by Joseph Coli, DVM with Comstock Equine Hospital.

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Related Programs and Events

  • Members Only Preview Day - A Real Van Gogh?

    Thursday April 11, 2013 / 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

    A special Members-only opportunity to preview the exhibition A Real Van Gogh? An Unsolved Art World Mystery.

    Present your membership card or purchase a membership at the admissions desk.

    NOT A MUSEUM MEMBER? Become one today! Click here for information.

  • Sierra Circle Members TALK: John Twilley on Art Conservation Science and the Painting Study by Candlelight

    Thursday April 11, 2013 / 10:30 am – 11:30 am

    Complimentary Private Lecture for Sierra Circle Members and above; RSVP Required to 775.398.7235 *

    Twilley will discuss his ongoing research on the painting Study by Candlelight, including microscopic observations, subsurface infrared imaging and X-ray radiography, and analyses of the pigments and paint media. Although scientific testing is not capable of proving the authorship of a painting, it is fundamental to the resolution of conflicting opinions about the use of materials by the painter. Twilley is highly-regarded in the field of art conservation with over thirty years of experience.

    * To attend preview events scheduled for Thursday, April 11 as a complimentary guest, please upgrade your membership to the Sierra Circle level or above. Contact Heidi Loeb at 775.398.7235 or heidi.loeb@nevadaart.org.

  • Sierra Circle Members TALK: Henk Tromp on Van Gogh and How the Art World Struggles with Truth

    Thursday April 11, 2013 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    Complimentary Private Lecture for Sierra Circle Members and above; RSVP Required to 775.398.7235 *

    Tromp has spent nearly six years researching the historical debates that have unfolded around many of Van Gogh’s paintings. His research reveals the darker side of the art world and the motives that lead art experts to make claims about authenticity. His recent book A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth was published in 2010. Tromp is a cultural anthropologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

    * To attend preview events scheduled for Thursday, April 11 as a complimentary guest, please upgrade your membership to the Sierra Circle level or above. Contact Heidi Loeb at 775.398.7235 or heidi.loeb@nevadaart.org.

  • Members Only Preview Day - A Real Van Gogh?

    Friday April 12, 2013 / 10:00 am – 11:55 pm

    A special Members-only opportunity to preview the exhibition A Real Van Gogh? An Unsolved Art World Mystery.

    Present your membership card or purchase a membership at the admissions desk.

    NOT A MUSEUM MEMBER? Become one today! Click here for information.

  • Members Only TALK: John Twilley on Art Conservation Science and the Painting Study by Candlelight

    Friday April 12, 2013 / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

    Online ticket sales for John Twilley's talk are now closed. A limited number of tickets to this lecture will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Admissions desk until 12 noon today, April 12, 2013.
    Open to Members Only *

    Twilley will discuss his ongoing research on the painting Study by Candlelight, including microscopic observations, subsurface infrared imaging and X-ray radiography, and analyses of the pigments and paint media. Although scientific testing is not capable of proving the authorship of a painting, it is fundamental to the resolution of conflicting opinions about the use of materials by the painter. Twilley is highly-regarded in the field of art conservation with over thirty years of experience.

    * Seating is limited and tickets are available on a first come, first served basis only. Tickets are non-refundable, non-exchangeable.

  • Members Only TALK: Henk Tromp on Van Gogh and How the Art World Struggles with Truth

    Friday April 12, 2013 / 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

    Open to Members Only *

    Tromp has spent nearly six years researching the historical debates that have unfolded around many of Van Gogh’s paintings. His research reveals the darker side of the art world and the motives that lead art experts to make claims about authenticity. His recent book A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth was published in 2010. Tromp is a cultural anthropologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

    * Seating is limited and tickets are available on a first come, first served basis only. Tickets are non-refundable, non-exchangeable.

  • Henk Tromp on Van Gogh and How the Art World Struggles with Truth

    Sunday April 14, 2013 / 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

    Tromp has spent nearly six years researching the historical debates that have unfolded around many of Van Gogh’s paintings. His research reveals the darker side of the art world and the motives that lead art experts to make claims about authenticity. His recent book A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth was published in 2010. Tromp is a cultural anthropologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

    Seating is limited and tickets are available on a first come, first served basis only. Tickets are non-refundable, non-exchangeable.

  • Educators' Evening: A Real Van Gogh? An Unsolved Art World Mystery

    Thursday May 2, 2013 / 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

    Local educators are invited to a special reception featuring a presentation and discussion on the exhibition A Real Van Gogh? An Unsolved Art World Mystery with Charles N. Mathewson Curator of Education Colin M. Robertson. Light refreshments will be served and registered participants will receive any related materials for use in the classroom based on themes found in the exhibition. Please note, classroom resources will be designed for K-6th grade, though may be adapted for other grades.

    Reserve a space for this event by emailing Jacque Dawson. Please include your name, school and grade level. Space is limited and preference is given to Northern Nevada public school teachers. Private and home school educators will be registered as space permits.

    Teacher in-service credit is available in 2013 for participation. Earn a half credit for attending 5 events and one credit for attending 10. Please check with the State of Nevada to see if credit may be applied to your area of licensure.

    Attendance to the reception is FREE for educators, thanks to the generosity of The Nell J. Redfield Foundation.

  • Dr. Martha Hildreth on 1880s France

    Friday June 14, 2013 / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

    The final decades of the nineteenth century hummed with social, cultural, economic, and political changes that had profound impacts on the work of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh. Find out how and why with this presentation by UNR historian Martha Hildreth.

  • Dr. Brett Van Hoesen on the Art History of Art Historical Mysteries

    Friday June 21, 2013 / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

    Art world mysteries and intrigues have their own chapter in the history of art. Find out more about this unique take on the history of art from Dr. Brett Van Hoesen.

Attributed to Vincent Van Gogh, Study by Candlelight, 1888. Private Collection.

William Goetz seated with his art collection. Image courtesy private collection.

An Unsolved Art World Mystery