'Van Gogh' painting is not family heirloom, owner admits

Mark Lawrence
Image caption Mark Lawrence had claimed the painting was bought by his great-grandfather in the 1920s

The owner of a painting purported to be by Vincent van Gogh has admitted misrepresenting its true history.

Houses at Auvers II was hung in Reading's Picnic Cafe on Friday.

Mark Lawrence had claimed his great-grandfather bought the work in Paris in the 1920s, but has since admitted he bought it for £1,500 about two years ago.

He still insists it is genuine but its authenticity has not been validated.

Mr Lawrence originally said the picture was bought for 300 francs and was unknown to the art world because it had been in his family since before van Gogh's works were first catalogued in the 1930s.

However, he has since confessed that it was purchased in a private sale and that the reference to Paris and 300 francs came from an inscription on the back of the painting.

The 27-year-old had also previously said he inherited the painting from his grandfather - who died in 1980 - along with 200 other works his family had collected.

He said: "I never set out to deceive anyone. I just want to display the collection as a legacy to my grandfather."

Image caption Houses at Auvers II was hung in Reading's Picnic Cafe for about an hour to launch an art festival

Following media coverage of the painting being hung in the Reading cafe, van Gogh specialist David Brooks, from Toronto, Canada, said it was not a known work and described the style as "poor".

The Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam, is the only place that can officially authenticate a work by the celebrated Dutch artist.

Mr Lawrence said he had been working with the museum to get the painting researched since the beginning of the year.

But in a communication to the BBC, the museum said it had only received an email from Mr Lawrence on Monday, and had advised him of the process of getting his painting authenticated.

There are only two authenticated Houses in Auvers paintings by van Gogh.

One hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the other resides at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.

Both were painted in 1890.

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