Doubts Raised Over Authenticity of Alleged Van Gogh at UK Cafe

Mark Lawrence's supposed Vincent van Gogh. Photo courtesy of the Reading Borough Council.

It’s not every day that you can sip a latte while viewing a Vincent van Gogh painting. But patrons at the Picnic Cafe in Reading, Berkshire, were apparently given such a treat for one hour at the launch of a weekend festival there called Open for Art, where Houses at Auvers II, a small vivid oil painting in a gilt frame was on view (see artnet News report).

Markus Lawrence, the 27-year-old director of the Reading Gallery, told the BBC, which reported the story, that he had inherited the work that was bought by his great-grandfather in the 1920s in Paris for 300 French Francs (about $300). Lawrence said he wanted to display it in the unfussy environment of a cafe as he says had been Van Gogh’s unfulfilled wish. Auvers-sur-Oise, a commune in the suburbs of Paris, was a popular subject for Van Gogh. One of his paintings of the town, Les chaumières à Auvers, sold for $4.4 million at Sotheby’s in 1998.

The painting is among numerous works that were allegedly in a family collection including those by Picasso, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and Degas. Lawrence also claims to own the fifth version of Edvard Munch‘s The Scream, which he chanced upon while removing a Victorian print from its frame. Between 1893 and 1910, Munch created four versions of The Scream, one of which famously sold for nearly $120 million at Sotheby’s in 2012, reportedly to financier Leon Black, breaking the world record, at the time, for a work of art sold at auction.

The work at the Reading cafe has already elicited doubt from one Van Gogh specialist, David Brooks, who claims the work is not genuine. “To me it screams ‘not Van Gogh’,” he told the BBC. “It’s not well executed, the style is quite poor.”

The Reading Gallery has an online presence as of now, and Lawrence is currently searching for a site for a physical gallery in Reading to house the entire collection and give “the people of Reading an art gallery of city status.”

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