Many a tourist has spent happy hours and days antiquing in New England, home to a few million charming old houses and farms and possibly more thrift and antique stores. By and large, your typical hunter is hoping for some modest value in the form of a furniture investment, perhaps.
Or, less ambitiously, one might aspire to pieces that hold less value than that but add to the general look of their home. A chair that happens to match a rug, or a lamp resembling one fondly remembered from childhood, are both eminently feasible outcomes from a trip to Maine.
Naturally there are those stories about something incredible found in unlikely circumstances- what one might call a cousin to the similar stories of classic cars found in barns. But it does happen. Maine just happens to be where a ‘lost’ painting connected to Vincent Van Gogh may have been found.
Thrift store fan Katherine Mathews made the find at Warehouse 839 in Saco, Maine, where she purchased it for the modest sum of $45. A small painting depicting a Japanese woman carrying a child away from a small house in a bucolic setting, the piece had been bought some fifteen years prior by store owner Kevin Keraghan at a New Hampshire estate sale. Keraghnan had meant to keep the painting for his own home’s décor, but later decided to sell due to later redecoration.
And because of that chance decorating decision, it’s Katherine Matthews who has the painting that is believed to possibly have been painted not by Vincent Van Gogh himself, but by Edmund Walpole Brooke, an artist of lesser renown who had become acquainted with Van Gogh in the months preceding his death.
Per Tsukasa Kodera, a professor of art history at Japan’s Osaka University who has dedicated much of his career to the subject, Brooke had met and spent some considerable time with Van Gogh in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise. Kodera’s extensive research into the link between Van Gogh and Brooke leads him to believe that the latter may have received letters, drawings and gifted paintings from the famed painter.
Other Van Gogh letters speak of Brooke, an Australian who had lived for some time in Japan, and the Japanese influence in his work that influenced Van Gogh himself, but relatively little is actually knowon about Brooke, lending some considerable intrigue to a painting already elevated to rather interesting territory by its association with one of history’s great creators. Not a terrible antiquing haul for Matthews!
Work goes on to ascertain that the painting is the genuine article by Brooke, but thus far the early signs are positive. If confirmations is ultimately received of its authenticity, it may offer historians a major new piece to the puzzle that is their understanding of Van Gogh and his work.
And if you feel moved to go try and find a lost piece of artwork forgotten in some cute antique store in the far reaches of Maine, that is likely nothing that Maine’s considerable tourist industry interests would be terribly about. But be advised that you may want to restrain your expectations of what you may find. But even if you don’t find a sculpture crafted by a student of Michelangelo himself, you’ll at least have had the trip, and maybe that nice lamp.