In 1928, after eleven years of extensive research and editing, Dr. Jacob Baart de la Faille finally finished the first catalogue raison of Vincent van Gogh's work.
Soon after, however, de la Faille discovered that he had mistakenly listed dozens of forged works as genuine in the catalog. He quickly set out to set the record straight but was met with strong resistance from art dealers, collectors, critics, politicians, amongst others - all of whom had self-interested reasons to oppose his corrections.
To this day, the international art world struggles to separate the real Van Goghs from the fake.
A Real Van Gogh begins with the story of de la Faille and moves into the late decades of the twentieth century, outlining the numerous clashes over the authenticity of Van Gogh's works while simultaneously exposing the often bewildering ramifications for art critics and scholars when they bring unwelcome news.
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"An endlessly fascinating book. Tromp probes the behavior of art-world figures who are involved with issues of authenticity: scholars and connoisseurs, museum advisors, art dealers and collectors. This is research of a kind that is seldom performed by art historians, who are more interested in whether a given work is genuine or not than in the process by which opinions are formed. Time after time, Tromp discovers that key agents allow their judgment to be guided by their own financial interest. In day-to-day practice, the ethics of this behavior is not questioned either in the courts, the art trade or the art-historical literature." - Gary Schwartz
"Based on prodigious research, Henk Tromp's work provides a fascinating case study of the problem of authenticity. This question of what is real and what is true extends far beyond the realm of art history and may be the most difficult cultural and moral issue all of us face today." - Modris Eksteins, Professor Modern History at the University of Toronto and writer of Rites of Spring
"The art world wants to be tricked [...]. That is certainly the conclusion one comes away with after reading A Real Van Gogh, Henk Tromp's thoroughly researched, highly readable, fascinating new book, which uses the history of van Gogh authenticity and forgery debates to discuss what happens in the art world when someone cries wolf. It's not a pretty picture for the expert who deigns to proclaim a work inauthentic." Noah Charney - The Journal of Art Crime
Henk Tromp is a cultural anthropologist and works at Leiden University.