Portland Art Museum and OHSU Hospital Team Up To Investigate Van Gogh’s Mysteries

12/13/10  Portland, Ore.

Modern imaging techniques may surface new information about one of the artist’s early creations

WHAT: In response to a request from the Portland Art Museum, OHSU Hospital is making it’s X-Ray and CT Scanner expertise and technology available to take images of Vincent van Gogh’s painting “The Ox Cart.” The imaging is part of international research to better understand van Gogh and his work. The research will also likely answer longstanding questions about the painting itself and it’s relationship to other van Gogh works.

WHEN: Meet at 1:15 p.m., Monday, December 13, 2010  

WHERE: OHSU Hospital lobby, crews will be escorted to the imaging suite

DETAILS: Van Gogh’s “The Ox Cart” is one of the Dutch artist’s early works. Longtime Oregon residents Fred and Frances Sohn donated the painting to the Portland Art Museum in 2007. Upon receiving the painting, the art museum restored the piece before placing it on display for the public.

The imaging at OHSU will help answer other important questions about the artwork. Previous studies by researchers at Cornell and Rice universities on other van Gogh works have revealed new information about the type of canvas used by the artist. Despite his shortage of funds, the van Gogh was very particular about the type of canvas he used for painting. Van Gogh’s pickiness over a century ago is a tremendous asset to art historians today. For instance, by studying X-rays, experts can learn which of van Gogh paintings came from the same roll of canvas. They can even determine the timeline of his works based on patterns found in the canvas; much like piecing together a huge jigsaw puzzle. 

The images taken at OHSU will become the latest addition to the puzzle that spans several years and many continents. Once created at OHSU, the digital X -rays will be transmitted to Dr. Donald Johnson at Rice University, and C. Richard Johnson at Cornell University for further analysis. They hope to use this data to pinpoint the specific time period when van Gogh acquired the canvas and likely determine how it relates to his previous and future artworks.

There is also a very small chance that something lies hidden beneath “The Ox Cart.” …a secret that X-ray might reveal. In 2008, X-ray analysis revealed an early portrait of a peasant woman beneath Van Gogh's 1887 work "Patch of Grass." Because finances were short during his lifetime, van Gogh sometimes reused his canvasses, covering his previous work. 

Representatives from the Portland Art Museum will be available following the imaging to talk about the process. Representatives from OHSU will be on hand to explain imaging technologies.
Media outlets will be allowed to photograph the artwork and the preparations for imaging. Due to radiation safety concerns, media cannot be in the room during the imaging process.