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Discovery Sheds Light on Van Gogh's Life

House renovation reveals prayer book and insurance policies
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2019 12:29 PM CDT
A man takes pictures in front of a video projection of a Van Gogh painting in an exhibition in Dresden, Germany, in 2017.   (Sebastian Kahnert/dpa via AP)

(Newser) – Renovation on a south London house where Vincent van Gogh once lived has unearthed documents that could fill in gaps in the artist's life. The papers include insurance policies and an 1867 prayer book, the Guardian reports. Van Gogh lived in the house for only a bit more than a year, but it was an eventful time for him. During that period, he became a fervent Christian and is thought to have fallen in love with Eugénie Loyer, his landlady's daughter; the insurance policies are in the landlady's name, and they mesh with the dates the artist lodged with her. As for the prayer book, it likely belonged to the landlady as well, but Van Gogh may have read it, per the Art Newspaper.

The renovation work also revealed scraps of paper under the floorboards adorned with watercolors of decorative flowers. The flowers are not in Van Gogh's style, and one theory is that they were done by Eugénie and perhaps saved by the smitten Van Gogh. Still to be examined are wadded up documents, also found beneath the floorboards. They're fragile, however, and conservators have yet to separate and examine them. Once renovated, the building will host artists and exhibitions in an effort, the owner says, to help artists "make a living in their lifetimes." The Art Newspaper points out that Van Gogh was never able to do that. (Stolen Van Goghs were found in an organized crime raid.)

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