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Vincent Van Gogh Painting, Rarely Seen, Added to National Gallery

Image: Vincent Van Gogh Painting, Rarely Seen, Added to National Gallery

By Nick Sanchez   |   Monday, 23 Dec 2013 04:04 PM

An oil painting by the famous Vincent Van Gogh, "Green Wheat Fields, Auvers," rarely seen in public since its creation in 1890, was recently put on display at the National Gallery of Art.

The Washington Post said that for decades Van Gogh's painting of the French countryside hung above the fireplace of museum benefactor Paul Mellon and his wife, Rachel Lambert Mellon, in their Upperville, Va., home. Mrs. Mellon, 103, granted the remainder of her estate to the gallery this year, having retained it since her husband's passing in 1999.

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Many of the museum's visitors this week said they've come specifically to see the painting, which was last displayed in public at the same gallery in 1966.

Greg Edwards of Herndon, Va., brought his daughter to see the Van Gogh, expressing his astonishment to ABC News: “Can you believe that was in someone’s home?”

At 2 and a half feet by 3 feet, the painting is among Van Gogh's largest. A pure landscape, it features vibrant colors and the artist's characteristic texture, created by thick, evocative brushstrokes.

It was created just months before his tragic suicide, following the famous episode in which he cut off a portion of his own ear and committed himself to an asylum. Because it was rendered in the intervening months between these events when Van Gogh returned to Auvers-sur-Oise north of Paris, it has been seen as a symbol of the artist's respite from sorrow.

“He suffered but was soothed by nature,” said museum curator Mary Morton. “He’s struggling, but he is feeling these incredible waves of joy.”

She told NBC News that the work has few documented exhibitions since its inception, including a 1912 showing in Cologne, Germany, and another in Berlin. Since the 1930s it has been mostly out of the public eye.

"What's great about this picture is that it really is just a field painting. It's just about grass and wind and sky," Morton explained. "It's really one of the great landscapes of that moment. ... This is why we love him so much.''

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