The self-portrait was purchased by Helene Kröller-Müller on 11 February 1919 (Helene’s birthday) for 6,500 guilders. She bought it from the collection of C. and Th. Sternheim, one of Germany’s most ardent admirers of Van Gogh, at the Amsterdam auction house Frederik Muller.

Urgent conservation
The Self-portrait has presumably received conservation treatment once before, a long time ago. A non-original varnish was then removed and a new varnish applied. In 2020 a condition study was carried out and a detailed condition report was produced. The museum’s Collection and research department has come to the conclusion that it would be irresponsible to postpone the conservation any longer, for the following two reasons:

  1. The current framing is a hazard and needs to be improved. The paint, ground layer and cardboard must be stabilized along the edges to prevent material loss. The fragile edges are at risk of further damage, particularly while framing and unframing the painting. The painting has therefore not been removed from its frame since 2014. This is also the reason that no varnish removal tests have been carried out yet.
  2. The current yellowed and non-original varnish does not do justice to the intention of the artist.

The conservation
The conservation work will involve removing the varnish, consolidating the paint, filling, retouching and possibly re-varnishing. And the improvement of the framing to reduce the risk of material loss to zero.

The conservation of the painting will take place from September through December 2021 and will begin with a preliminary examination. The overall management of the conservation is in the hands of Margje Leeuwestein, painting conservator of the Kröller-Müller Museum.

A specialized photographer will be appointed to provide full technical photographic documentation before, during and after treatment. A paper conservator will be consulted regarding the use of organic solvents on cardboard. Furthermore, advice will be sought on the improvement of the framing and a specialist may be asked to carry out this improvement.

The total costs are estimated at € 12,500.

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