Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ staying put in Amsterdam museum

Renovator Rene Boitelle works on a restoration of Van Gogh's painting "Sunflowers" at Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. (Reuters)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ staying put in Amsterdam museum

AMSTERDAM: A "full body scan" carried out on the Van Gogh Museum's version of the Dutch master's iconic "Sunflowers" has shown the painting is not fit to travel because it's in "stable but vulnerable" condition, the museum's director said Thursday.
"We've decided that any stresses that the picture could be subjected to, was it to travel, was (it) to be lent, that those might be too risky," director Axel Rueger told The Associated Press in the studio where the painting is undergoing restoration. "Therefore, we decided that from now on we will not be able to lend the picture anymore to other exhibitions to other museums — so it will always stay in Amsterdam."
For Van Gogh fans who can't make it to Amsterdam, the predominantly yellow 1889 painting of a bunch of sunflowers in a vase is based on another version of the work painted a year earlier that is on display at London's National Gallery. Other versions of the work are in Philadelphia, Tokyo, and Munich.
The painting in Amsterdam is hardly a frequent flyer — it has only been loaned out six times, the last time to the National Gallery so it could hang next to that London museum's version.
Ella Hendriks, who worked on the current restoration project, said the painting underwent a series of tests she likened to a "full body scan" on a human patient. The tests used precision imaging machines to peer through the surface and decide what could and could not be done to the painting.
One test, usually used to examine retinas, gave a crucial insight by creating a "virtual cross-section" of layers of paint and varnish.
"We can see ... that the paint layer is mixed in together with the varnish layer so there's not a clear division between them," Hendriks said.
That discovery has limited the amount of work restorer Rene Boitelle can carry out. He will remove some patches of beeswax that was applied after Van Gogh finished the work and have now gone a milky white color, and will use special paint to rework some previous restorations to make them less visible.
To return the painting to its original state would involve removing the varnish, which Van Gogh did not apply to the painting. Also, some previous restorations are under the varnish and can't be treated.
"That varnish cannot be removed safely - at least not with the methods and materials available to us now," Boitelle said. "I can remove the wax but the retouchings are there to stay - at least for now."
The painting will go back on display at the museum Feb. 22 and an exhibition about the research and restoration will open in June.
That means Boitelle has just a few more weeks to incredibly carefully spruce up one of the world's most recognizable artworks.
"It's quite exciting, obviously, but I try not to be too aware and too conscious of all the myths and the iconic value that the painting has," he said. "After all it's still just a painting like so many we've treated here in this studio and I'll treat it with the same dedication and seriousness and concentration as I would treat any other painting that is not iconic."


REVIEW: 'Stranger Things' season three

Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Sadie Sink (Max Mayfield), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Natalie Dyer (Nancy Wheeler) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven/Jane Hopper). (Netflix)
Updated 21 July 2019
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REVIEW: 'Stranger Things' season three

  • Hit series returns, funnier and freakier

DUBAI: Netflix’s “Stranger Things” crossed the line from hit series to cultural phenomenon pretty early on with its mix of Eighties nostalgia, sweetly humorous kids-coming-of-age story, sci-fi thrills and genuinely spooky scenes.

After a second season that brought a darker, more dangerous vibe but lost some of the fun, showrunners the Duffer Brothers seem to have struck a better balance between the two in the third season, released last week.

Set in the summer of 1985, the central gang of kids: Mike Wheeler, Will Byers, Lucas Sinclair, Max Mayfield, Dustin Henderson and telepath Eleven (or El — or Jane Hopper as she’s now the legal adoptive daughter of Sherrif Jim Hopper) are on school vacation, and it’s that awkward summer when the boys start to take more interest in girls than in Dungeons & Dragons, much to Will’s chagrin. Mike and Lucas are (at the start of the series at least) bumbling their way through relationships with El and Max respectively. The Duffers mine these awkward ‘first-love’ scenarios for rich humor and some genuinely touching moments, as well as some realistic takes on how the complications of love interests affects the tight-knit gang of boys we met in the first series. And of how they enable Max and El to bond. It’s great to see El relax into hanging out with her first real girlfriend (in the platonic sense).

There’s plenty of humor too in the double-act of Dustin and Steve Harrington — formerly the high-school heartthrob, but now struggling to retain his ‘cool’ edge while working in an ice-cream parlor in the town’s new social hotspot, the Starcourt Mall. New arrival Robin is his co-worker — and thorn in side, constantly puncturing his ego.

Of course, there’s a darkness stirring too. The sinister, otherworldly monster defeated by El at the end of season two is not, it seems, as gone as everyone thought. Strange power fluctuations trigger Will’s awareness of his nemesis, and the kids quickly realize that their summer holidays aren’t going to be as carefree as they’d hoped. There’s the issue of exploding rats, for starters, and Max’s older brother, Billy, is acting very, well, strange.

Everything that made “Stranger Things” so wildly popular, then, is still in place, including stellar performances from the ensemble cast and the eye-catching attention to Eighties pop culture (new Coke, Phoebe Cates and Ralph Macchio, for example), to — of course — the unsettling notion of something very wrong happening just beneath Hawkins’ shiny, happy surface.