London - Vincent Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers is rapidly losing its shine – and scientists now think they know why.

Research has found that energy-efficient lighting used in many galleries is causing the yellow pigment in the masterpiece to darken.

The alarming deterioration could mean that in generations to come, the famous flowers will appear a muddy brown instead of yellow.

Sunflowers is one of many great works said to be changing colour because of LED lights.

It was previously thought these were safer for paintings than natural light, but scientists have shown that the bright-yellow pigment contained in well-known artworks becomes unstable under LED lights and turns a shade of brownish green.

More than a dozen paintings from 1887 and 1890 were tested for the problem, which affects the oil paint colour known as chrome yellow. The colour has also been found in works by Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

French scientist Claus Habfast said: “Of course, it’s not advisable to put these paintings in the dark because they are part of the cultural heritage of humankind and the public wants to see them. But museums have to strike the right balance.” - Daily Mail