AMSTERDAM (AP) — A young Vincent van Gogh was so struck by a dead willow leaning "lonely and melancholy" over a pond near The Hague that he knew at once he had to paint it.
"I'm going to attack it tomorrow morning," he wrote to his brother Theo on July 26, 1882.
The Van Gogh Museum unveiled the painting Thursday, the first addition in five years to its world-famous collection of works by the postimpressionist master.
At a time when the artist was still honing his skills in perspective, anatomy and proportion using pen and pencil sketches, the watercolor was a bolt from the blue, although its muted tones are still a far cry from the exuberant and colorful oil paintings that characterized Van Gogh's later works.
"It's a very elaborate, well done watercolor and that's quite extraordinary in this period of Van Gogh's oeuvre," said Marije Vellekoop, the museum's curator of prints and drawings. "Out of the blue, in the summer, in July, he makes a series of watercolors ... with a lot of detail, but also very painterly, fluent."
Rueger said the painting, bought at auction in London earlier this year for €1.5 million ($1.9 million), filled a gap in the museum's collection of Van Gogh works.