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Van Gogh painted on tea towels: museum curator

The curator of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam says an examination of several paintings from the last year of the artist's life has discovered they were done on tea towels.

Artist Vincent Van Gogh, known for being always short of money and materials, resorted to painting on tea towels according to the curator of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Louis van Tilborgh says a detailed examination of five pictures has yielded the conclusion the artist painted on towel-like materials.

Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo from the mental asylum in Saint Rémy de Provence, 20 kilometres south of Avignon, on Nov. 16 1889, seeking another 10 metres of canvas. That roll did not arrive until three weeks later.

Tilborgh says experts decided to take a closer look at paintings from that period: The Large Plane Trees and Wheatfields in a Mountainous Landscape.

The off-white fabric in each painting has a grid pattern of tiny red rectangles, just noticeable where the paint is thin.Tilborgh says the tea towels probably came from the kitchen of the mental hospital.

That didn't end Van Gogh's creative use of kitchen items.

The following May, the 37-year-old artist moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, 40 kilometres from Paris, where he again ran out of canvas. At the time, he was creating one painting a day.

Van Gogh used tea towels with a red border woven in for three pieces: two still lifes of flowers (currently in private collections) and Daubigny's Garden.

Experts say they believe the towels may have come from the Auberge Ravoux where the artist was staying.

Van Gogh, a tortured soul who suffered major bouts of depression, died on July 29, 1890, two days after shooting himself in the chest. He left 900 paintings and more than 1,100 drawings and illustrations.