January 7, 2014

NO NO NO This is not Van Gogh.

"I myself still find photographs frightful and don’t like to have any, especially not of people whom I know and love." 
Vincent Van Gogh, to his sister Willemien, September 19, 1889.*

 Hold everything. There's something WRONG on the internet! Since I first posted this deflating article 4 years ago, this erroneous photo has shown up everywhere on the web as being a genuine photograph of Vincent Van Gogh, even Wikipedia. What is the world coming to?! In a nutshell, the photographer and the studio indicated on the bottom of this carte-de-visite is located  in SAINT-HYACINTHE, QUEBEC, CANADA. A quick Google tells me there is only one SAINT-HYACINTHE in the world, and it's not in Belgium. The 1901 Canadian Census also indicates that Victor Morin lived in Saint-Hyacinthe and worked as a photographer.

Researchers shouldn't bend the facts to fit their stories. Please pass this on. 
Here's the rest of my post from July 2009. 

While I was trying to find a photo of Van Gogh to accompany another post I happened upon this photo, supposedly of Vincent Van Gogh. It came to light about 5 years ago and was on display at the Seton Gallery at the University of New Haven in an exhibition titled Discovering Vincent van Gogh: A Forensic Study in Identification.

The man in the photograph does bear a striking resemblance to Van Gogh. The information found on the 4 1/2" X 5 1/2", photograph circa 1886, identifies the photographer as Victor Morin, 42 RUE ST. FRANCOIS, ST HYACINTHE.

The photograph was discovered in the early 1990s by a customer flipping through an album of photographs, mostly of clergymen, dating back to the late 19th century at an antique dealer's in Massachusetts. The man who found the picture saw the resemblance to Vincent Van Gogh and took the photograph to a photo historian who had previously worked on identifying images of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant. The expert was convinced it was Vincent, contesting the veracity of earlier known photos of Vincent, believing them to be his brother instead.

Tests were performed on the photograph by a forensic institute also in New Haven. Investigators matched the size of the forehead, the shape of the eyes and even individual hairs.They too believed this to be Van Gogh stating, "Even the most minute detail matched up, even the smallest hairs on the beards matched up,"

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has contested that the picture is the artist. And rightly so.  I’d really like this to be a photo of Vincent Van Gogh – my stomach flipped when I saw it. I love Van Gogh, his letters and his myth. But alas, it’s just wishful thinking. Despite Van Gogh’s hard life, the subject of the photo looks older than the 33 years Vincent would be in the photo. But the quickest Google verifies the photographer Morin as being located in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. There is no other St. Hyacinthe. Not Belgium like the expert says. You just can't bend the facts. (Ancestry.com backs this up as in 1901 Victor Morin is listed as a photographer on the 1901 Canadian Census)

Considering Vincent van Gogh was hungry enough to eat paint and borrowed money constantly from his brother, I don’t think Vincent came to La Belle Province and had his photo taken.

Thanks to an article at Guardian.co.uk, The Guardian, Tuesday 24 February 2004, David Teather


giulia said...

My heart flipped when I saw this (just now), too; however, I'm sure you & VVG Museum are correct.

I've had experiences arguing (in academic sense in case everyone thinks, of course gg/svs was arguing, again!) against cases in a few archaeological finds in MEast. I wish so, so much that one or two particular cases were what people thought...but it just did not fit, any which way we tried.

On unrelated dumb note. I re-watched The Last Waltz (Netflix Fairy; I may have to purchase) last night & it reawakened an unwelcome, seriously diverting RR crush as bad as ever. What the ?

I just had to say it & then maybe it'll pass. (I doubt it.) Sniff.


Poetikat said...

His head kind of looks photo-shopped in there, don't you think? As unlikely as it may be, it is kind of cool to think he may have been in Canada, though.


Liza said...

The resemblance is stunning. One can speculate that the photographer was on holiday in Europe when he took the picture. Maybe, that explains why the photograph made it back to Canada.

Photographers take their equipment everywhere with them and are always taking shots of subjects. Perhaps, VG was a paid model?

Just a thought. These are the things that make you go...hmmmmmm.

willow said...

Wow, this is uncanny! It sure does look like him, don't you think? I'm mesmerized. It's kinda spooky.

Kirk Douglas did a great job portraying him in "Lust for Life". Even looked quite a bit like him.

Sheramy said...

Hi Clever Pup,
I [cleverly :-) ] deduced that if you mentioned this alleged Vvg photo on my blog you might have posted about it on yours. Yeah, that's the same photo I was thinking of, and no, I definitely do not think it's him. Like you said, the person in that picture looks far too old (even though Vincent claimed he looked like an old man). Moreover, in 1886 he is known to have been in Paris from March onward. No sidetrips to Canada!!

José said...


As you know it's said that we all have a sosia (I guess this word is also used in english ?), or at least someone really similar.
Comparing this photo with the painting from the post above, one notices a big difference on the nose, but he does look quite similar and could be taken as being the artist.
I'm thinking about sending you my photo for you to look up.
Maybe I'm famous and don't know :-)

Have a nice week,


Rachel K Schlueter said...

How many people could have that forhead? thanks for posting!

fotojb said...

Sure it is Vincent. As a matter of fact it is the photo he used as his model to create his self portraits.

The Clever Pup said...

There is no "fact" here Joe, only speculation. Speculation #1"Backwater Quebecois photographer goes to France to take photo of still unknown painter and puts the name of his Canadian studio on it". Speculation # 2 Vincent Van Gogh uses precious money for food and paint to get a hair cut, buy a suit and have his photo taken".

fotojb said...

Hi Hazel,

Please take your time while checking Vincent's hairline in the photo and his drawing self portrait. Try to enlarge each hairline and compare them side by side. This is fun, Joe

Madeline said...

The nose of the man in the photograph doesn't match the nose that is seen in the multitude of painted portraits of Vincent. The nose is arguably the most distinguishable feature of Van Gogh's face. The jaw is too wide on this man as well. It's also clear by examining his portraits and the other photos speculated to be his, that Vincent has a much more prominent brow bone than this man here, and his eyes were set deeper in with the brow protruding out and over the eyes.

The Clever Pup said...

Thanks Madeline.

fotojb said...

Vincent could not see the ridge of his nose when making his copy. The sunlight blended his nose and cheek so he guessed at it. Even today we cannot see the ridge of his nose even under magnification.

One more thing; There is a sty on Vincent's lower eyelid in his drawing and there is the same sty on the same eyelid in the photograph.

The Clever Pup said...

Buberger, have you actually ever LOOKED at any other self-portraits by Van Gogh? You'll see that the nose, eyes and hair VARY from portrait to portrait.

Vangoghfoto said...

Of course silly, many in person. More than looked at, I studied them, carefully.
At the VG drawing show at the Met, 2005, I discovered that there is a sty on Vincent's lower eyelid in his famous pen & ink self portrait dated 1887; the sty is clearly visible in this photograph.
Vincent traced the photograph!!!!