This Could Be the First Known Photo of Van Gogh as an Adult

The image of 34 men was taken at a Parisian art academy.

Italian art historian Antonio De Robertis claims to have identified Vincent van Gogh in this Edmond Bénard photo of 34 men posing together at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1888. If authenticated, this would be the first confirmed photo of the artist as an adult. Photo: courtesy the National Institute of Art History in Paris.
Italian art historian Antonio De Robertis claims to have identified Vincent van Gogh in this Edmond Bénard photo of 34 men posing together at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1888. If authenticated, this would be the first confirmed photo of the artist as an adult.
Photo: courtesy the National Institute of Art History in Paris.

New Yorkers can spot Vincent van Gogh lookalikes on the subway—but that knowledge comes from self-portraits, not photography. You might be surprised to learn there are no photographs of the artist as an adult.

Italian art historian Antonio De Robertis claims to have identified Van Gogh in a photograph taken at Paris’s Académie Julian in early 1888. Van Gogh moved to Arles in February that year, but has spent the previous two years living in Paris with his brother Theo.

The occasion for the image is uncertain, as not all of the men pictured were artists, and it isn’t clear how some of them would have known one another.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1887)Photo via: Wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1887). Photo: via Wikipedia.

A number of people have claimed to have found photographs of Van Gogh over the years. Last summer, another group portrait, with Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard among others, failed to sell at auction. Another potential photo of the artist as a child is among a number of undocumented Van Gogh artworks and archival materials a Greek woman claims her father seized during a raid of a Nazi train during World War Two.

The most recent contender is from the National Institute of Art History in Paris, and was taken by Edmond Bénard. According to De Robertis, the men in the photograph include artists Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, as well as Andries Bonger, friend and brother-in-law to Theo van Gogh.

Jule Antoine, photo possibly depicting Vincent van Gogh and friends (1887). Photo: Jule Antoine, courtesy Romantic Agony.

Jule Antoine, photo possibly depicting Vincent van Gogh and friends (1887).
Photo: Jule Antoine, courtesy Romantic Agony.

“We have found what is the only photo in existence of Van Gogh as an adult,” De Robertis told an Italian art magazine, according to the Independent. “Until now, we have only seen photos of him at 13-years-old and then one when he was 19.”

De Robertis dates the photo to the first two weeks of February 1988, shortly after Vuillard and Bonnard enrolled in the Académie Julian and just before Van Gogh’s move to Arles.


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