30 Nov
Grasshopper Discovered in Van Gogh Painting Grasshopper Discovered in Van Gogh Painting

Grasshopper Discovered in Van Gogh Painting

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The secret apparently went undiscovered for 128 years, until a paintings conservator at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Missouri took a closer look at what seemed to be a small object trapped in Vincent van Gogh's 1899 painting "Olive Trees."

"I came across what I first thought was the impression of a tiny leaf," Mary Schafer explained to Live Science. "But then, I discovered it was in fact a tiny insect."

The possible presence of a small bug wouldn't have been all that unusual, given that many artists, especially those working during the 19th century, painted in outdoor settings.

"You can find sand in the paint from beach scenes, plant material in forest scenes," said Schafer.

Plus, van Gogh himself described his regular encounters with insects, as an 1885 letter to his brother suggests: "But just go and sit outdoors, painting on the spot itself!" reads the portion of the letter released by the museum. "Then all sorts of things like the following happen – I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you'll be getting, not to mention dust and sand … when one carries them across the heath and through hedgerows for a few hours, the odd branch or two scrapes across them…."

Schafer's larger hope, however, is that the closer study of the Van Gogh painting -- she discovered the small spider with the help of a surgical microscope -- will uncover as-yet-unknown details about how the work was executed.

"We're trying to apply scientific means [to understanding the art in the museum]," she said. "Under the microscope, you can really see the paint in a three-dimensional way."

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Read 1410 times Last modified on Monday, 20 November 2017 07:48
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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