Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most valuable pieces in the world. Unfortunately, there is no way of freezing a masterpiece forever. In fact, many have started to fade away and have visibly lost aspects of their bright colors and unique texture.
Scientists have found that a mineral in a red-colored paint, frequently used by Van Gogh, is rapidly turning white since it breaks down into white crystals. His use of red lead in his 1888 masterpiece, Sunflowers, has caused its colors to progressively vanish and grow dull.
Similarly, another study of some of the Dutch impressionist’s paintings revealed that the main culprit was varnish – which, ironically, is applied to a painting to protect it. Varnish can become brown with age and can cause colors to naturally take on a darker tone. Some of the bright yellow blossoms in his Flowers in a Blue Vase (1887), for example, have discolored. and turned slightly orange.
Many of Van Gogh’s paintings have been inappropriately varnished and since the varnish is almost inseparable from the paint, effectively removing the varnish is a huge challenge conservators face.
As the original Van Gogh masterpieces are slowly fading away, the Van Gogh Museum Editions become even more authentic over time. With the paintings’ increasing rate of decay and the technical dilemmas conservators are facing, this may become a reality in the next few centuries.