A Real Grasshopper Was Just Found In The Paint Of A Van Gogh Masterpiece

Published November 8, 2017

Van Gogh was a proponent of the plein air method of painting, where an artist depicting the natural world paints outdoors.

Vang Gogh Olive Orchard

Wikimedia CommonsVincent Vang Gogh, “Orchard Trees” 1889.

Great works of art often hide secrets, but few are as odd as the real grasshopper discovered in a Vincent Van Gogh painting.

Art curators at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. found the remains of a dead grasshopper embedded in the layers of paint in a Van Gogh painting, reported The Kansas City Star.

The insect, missing its abdomen and thorax, was discovered on the canvas of Van Gogh’s painting Olive Trees, in the brown and green paint in the forefront of the image.

The grasshopper was likely dead by the time it found itself in Van Gogh’s painting, as it did not disturb the paint around it.

Van Gogh was a proponent of the plein air method of painting, where an artist depicting the natural world paints outside in nature.

“Van Gogh worked outside in the elements,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art director. “And we know that he…dealt with wind and dust, grass and trees, flies and grasshoppers.”

The artist even once said in a letter to his brother, “I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you’ll be getting.”

Van Gogh Grasshopper

The Kansas City StarThe grasshopper in the painting.

The grasshopper’s natural camouflage made it difficult to detect in the green and brown paint.

It was only discovered during a close study of the painting as a part of an effort to create an online catalog of the 104 French paintings and pastels at the museum.

Mary Schafer, the gallery’s paintings conservator who first spotted the insect said, “It’s not unusual to find this kind of material in paint, but the grasshopper’s discovery connects viewers with van Gogh’s painting style, and the moment in which he made the work.”

The grasshopper will be left in the painting, leaving a new easter egg in an amazing work of art.

Next, learn 11 things you didn’t know about Vincent Van Gogh. Then, read about how Vincenzo Peruggia’s theft of the Mona Lisa and made it into a masterpiece.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe Paoletti is a New York City-based writer and a former Editorial Intern at All That's Interesting. He holds a Bachelor's in English from Fordham University.