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.

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

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