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Van Gogh painting unseen for half-century now on view at D.C.'s National Gallery

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Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece "Green Wheat Fields, Auvers", not shown publicly for almost half a century, now can be viewed at D.C.'s National Gallery of Art.

The painting, one of his most important landscapes, had been hanging above the living room fireplace in the Upperville, Va. estate of philanthropist art collector Paul Mellon and his wife, Rachel Lambert Mellon, since Dec. 1955.

Mellon willed it to the National Gallery among almost 200 other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, but stipulated that it be held by his wife during her lifetime. Mrs. Mellon, age 103, gave it to the National Gallery this year.

The museum had displayed it on loan in 1966. Now, it's the museum's ninth van Gogh oil painting.

The Dutch master painted "Green Wheat Field, Auvers" just weeks before he killed himself in 1890.

He created some 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings during his brief ten-year career, despite extreme emotional turmoil that led him to suicide at age 37.

Van Gogh's "persistence and originality" was praised by The Netherlands Ambassador Rudolf Bekink on Dec. 17 at a different museum, the Phillips Collection, now exhibiting "Van Gogh Repetitions".

The Dutch Ambassador, in his erudite accent, demonstrated the correct way to pronounce "van Gogh". It sounds like "cough" -- the word and the actual action.

For more info: National Gallery of Art, www.nga.gov, on the National Mall, Constitution Avenue between 7th and 4th Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. Free. "Van Gogh Repetitions", The Phillips Collection, www.phillipscollection.org, 1600 21st Street, N.W. (at Q Street), Washington, D.C. Tickets.

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