Showing posts with label Vincent van Gogh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vincent van Gogh. Show all posts

June 18, 2020

Survival selfie of Vincent Van Gogh's artnapped painting "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen."

Art loss detective Arthur Brand has provided two photos, of the front and verso, of the artnapped Vincent Van Gogh painting "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen."  One photo shows the front of the small painting sandwiched between a New York Times newspaper and a Dutch copy of the autobiography "The Master Thief" written by Octave Durham.  The addition of the book may have been a tongue-in-cheek gesture on the part of the photographer as the book's author "Okkie" is the infamous thief who stole two other priceless Vincent van Gogh paintings on the evening of Dec. 7, 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

At the time of this year's Van Gogh theft, "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen," painted in 1884, had been on loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen to the Singer Laren Museum for an exhibition.  Stolen in the early days of the coronavirus shutdown, a thief made his way into the shuttered Singer Laren museum by forcing his way through the glass front door of the museum's edifice before moving into the gallery to cherry-pick this singular work of art by Van Gogh. 

Verso of the painting appears to be authentic according to
Andreas Blühm, Director of the Groninger Museum
Brand informed those covering the case that he had received the photos of the painting a few days ago but for now is remaining pretty mum on providing too many details, aside from noting that the painting has a new scratch on the bottom.  The photo's inclusion of the newspaper serves as a proof of life that the painting was in that stated condition, minus its original frame, on or after 30 May 2020, when the newspaper was published.

Given that the version of the New York Times is the European edition, one can extrapolate that the artwork was likely still within Europe two months after the robbery.   Or at least it was eighteen days ago.  The newspaper also shows an article which ironically or not, mentions both Brand and the Van Gogh thief Octave Durham.

Brand had stated that he came by the photos after they turned up circulating in mafia circles.  It is unclear if the images were taken as a means of shopping the painting for a buyer, as the first steps in ransoming the painting, or simply as a nose-thumbing statement of confident arrogance on the part of the criminal showing he (or they) still hold the artwork. 

“Artnapping”—the stealing of art for ransom—is known to be a ploy used in the criminal world.   In 2015 thieves tried to blackmail the Vatican for the return of documents by Michelangelo stolen 20 years ago.  

Tragically, sometimes artworks are ransomed to generate funds to carry out other crimes or arm militias. This appears to have been the case during the art heist at the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, northwestern Holland in 2005. Ten years later,  representatives from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists militia entered the Dutch embassy in Kiev and demanded a ransom of €50 million for the safe return of the artworks.  Likewise, Khalid El Bakraoui, the suicide bomber who attacked the Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, had earlier attempted to obtain a payout for ten paintings stolen from the Museum Van Buuren valued at more than €1m. 

March 30, 2020

Van Gogh thefts by our count: 37 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 15 separate art thefts.

When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen? 

Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, has long commanded substantial figures in the contemporary art world. Eight of his masterpieces are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive works of art ever sold.    

Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. Then thieves follow the path of least protection or resistance and strike at objects known to be of value in places that allow for the opportunity.

Taking a look inside ARCA's database of art crimes involving the artist Vincent Van Gogh by our count, 37 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 15 separate art thefts.

Vincent van Gogh – Parish garden in Nuenen, Spring 1884. 25x57
167 years after his birth on March 30, 1853, one of his paintings, Parish garden in Nuenen, painted in the Spring of 1884 has been stolen, becoming the first museum theft, publicly announced which hints at the vulnerability of museums during the worldwide pandemic. 

On loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen, the painting was part of the Mirror of the Soul exhibition and was scheduled to hang at the Singer Laren Museum from 14 January until 10 May 2020.  


Stolen in 1937 - The Lovers: The Poet's Garden IV, 1888 is only known to the art world through an 1888 letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo and a single black and white photograph.

This painting was seized by Reichsfeldmarschall Hermann Göring along with three other Van Gogh paintings from Berlin and Frankfurt between 1937 and 1938 from the National Galerie in Berlin - most probably because he wanted to monetize it, along with others.

This artwork, likely an oil on canvas was completed the same year the letter to Theo was sent and is all the more touching for the small sketch the artist sent to his brother along with his letter.  This work has been been missing since 1937/38 and has never been recovered. 


February 17, 1975 – Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was one of 28 works of art stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. The painting was recovered in an apartment registered to an alias in Milan on April 6, 1975.  It too was stolen a second time, just one month later. See the individual theft post here.


May 15, 1975 - Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was stolen for a second time along with 37 other Impressionist and Post Impressionist works of art from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. This follow-up theft included many of same artworks previously taken during the February 17, 1975 theft. The Van Gogh was recovered on November 2, 1975 in what was then West Germany along with ten other stolen artworks taken during the second the Galleria d'Arte Moderna theft. See the individual theft post here.


June 4, 1977 - Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen from Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum and later recovered only to then be stolen again in 2010. 


May 20, 1988 - Three paintings Vase with Carnations (1886) by Vincent Van Gogh, La maison du maître Adam Billaud à Nevers (The House of Master Adam Billaud at Nevers) painted in 1874 by Johan Barthold Jongkind and Bouteilles et pêches (Bottles and peaches) painted in 1890 by Paul Cézanne were stolen from the Stedelijk Museum, next door to the Van Gogh Museum on the Museumplein in Amsterdam.  All three works of art were recovered undamaged.  See the individual theft post here.


December 12, 1988 -  Three Van Goghs worth an estimated €113 million euros were stolen from the The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo about 60 miles east of Amsterdam. The stolen works of art included the second of three painted sketches titled De aardappeleters, (the potato eaters) completed in 1885, as well as two other works Four Cut Sunflowers, (also known as Overblown Sunflowers from August-September), 1887 and Loom with Weaver,1884.  All three paintings were recovered but had sustained damages.  See the individual theft post here.


June 28, 1990 - Three early Van Gogh paintings, Digging farmer, 1885-87, Brabant Peasant, seated, 1884-1885, and Wheels of the Water Mill in Gennep were stolen from the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands. The Digging Farmer was found in 1991 in a bank safe in Belgium. The other two paintings were returned in 1994 via negotiations with a tertiary party.  See the individual theft post here.


April 14, 1991 - 20 paintings by Vincent van Gogh were stolen from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. All 20 paintings were recovered within 24 hours. Three of the 20 paintings were severely damaged. Four perpetrators, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm were arrested in July 1991.  See the entire list of artworks and the individual theft post here.


May 19, 1998  -  The prestigious Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome was robbed by three armed with guns shortly before closing time. The criminals stole two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh's L'Arlésienne, 1889 and Le Jardinier, October 1889 and Paul Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan, 1906.  On July 5, 1998 eight suspects were arrested and all three paintings were recovered.   See the individual theft post here.


May 13-15, 1999 - the Vincent van Gogh painting, The Willow, was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch. The painting was recovered in 2006 following an undercover sting operation where two suspects were arrested. See the individual theft post here.


December 7, 2002 - Two thieves using a ladder break in to the Van Gogh Museum making off with two paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884). Following an intensive international investigation, two Dutchmen, Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn were arrested in 2004 for their respective roles in the burglary. Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn was sentenced to 4 years incarceration. Each of the culprits were ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages and both denied responsibility.  The paintings remianed lost for 14 years only to resurface in late September 2016 in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples. During a blitz by Italian law enforcement on members of an illicit cocaine trafficking ring operated by  a splinter group of the Naples Camorra, the paintings were recovered.  See individual theft post here. 

April 26, 2003 - Three paintings including Van Gogh's The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso's Poverty and Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape were taken from The Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester. The works of art were found the next day crammed into a tube behind a public toilet in Manchester's Whitworth Park. See the individual theft post here.


February 10, 2008 - Four paintings were stolen at gunpoint from a private Zürich gallery run by the Foundation E.G. Bührle in Switzerland. The paintings were Blossoming Chestnut Branches by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat, Claude Monet's Poppies near Vétheuil and Edgar Degas' Count Lepic and His Daughters.  The Van Gogh and Monet were recovered on February 18, 2008.  The Degas was recovered in April 2012 and Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat was recovered April 12, 2012.  See the individual theft post here.


August 21, 2010Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen for the second time from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo.  Its current whereabouts are still unknown. 

By Lynda Albertson

May 10, 2014

A Report on the second day (and conclusion) of Authentication in Art at The Hague

Presentation on discovery of a new van Gogh painting
by Virginia M. Curry

The second session of the Authentication in Art Congress at The Hague presented a tour de force of scions defining the new intersections of science, art history and the law.

Dr. Ella Hendricks (Senior Paintings Conservator, Van Gogh Museum) and Muriel Geldof (Conservation Scientist, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands) in ‘Evaluating technical and analytical studies of Van Gogh’s paintings in support of attribution 'contemplated the  role of art-technological studies in the process of attributing and authenticating paintings by Vincent van Gogh in terms of consistency of the materials and techniques used, also leading to improved connoisseurship by informing and therefore refining our perception of the artist’s changing styles and techniques' (program).

In ‘Van Gogh and his oeuvre: the attribution process evaluated’ Dr. Tilborough (Senior Researcher, Van Gogh Museum) and  Teio Meedendorp (Researcher, Van Gogh Museum) emphasized that both transparency and access are key to their research.  This philosophy of transparency in research recently permitted Dr. van Tilborough and his team to discover and authenticate a new van Gogh painting, “Sunset at Montmajour”. The team compared “Sunset” to  van Gogh’s “The Rocks” from the Fine Arts Museum in Houston, and they were able to discern that the paintings were completed within two weeks of each other.

Dr. Ellen Landau discussed Pollock's "Mural" 
“We carried out art historical research into the style, depiction, use of materials and context, and found that everything indicated that the work is by van Gogh," according to Dr. Tilborough. " We were able to track the provenance to Theo’s collection in 1890 and it was sold  in 1901.  Letters from the artist refer to this painting."

Many thanks to Dr. Ellen Landau (Professor  emeritus of Art History, Case Western Reserve University) for her presentation, “Conservation as a Connoisseurship Tool: Jackson Pollock’s 1943 Mural for Peggy Guggenheim, A Case Study” which highlighted the joint analysis of Pollock’s 1943 painting “Mural” recently undertaken by the Getty.  The analysis debunked many misconceptions concerning the manner in which Pollock worked, and converted me thereby, to a deeper understanding and appreciation of his art.

Professor Robyn Slogget (Director, Center for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne) and her associate, paintings conservator Vanessa Kowalski, highlighted several case studies involving the forgery of aborigine art and the pitfalls eventually overcome to develop a protocol of examination and non-invasive analysis -- assisting in successfully prosecuting a case of forgery of aborigine art in Melbourne.

PhD Student Elke Cwiertnia (Northumbria University, Newcastle) in ‘Examining artworks attributed to Francis Bacon (1909-1992) to aid authentication’ presented the methodology of examination and preservation employed by the Francis Bacon research project in their efforts to publish a catalogue raisonné of Bacon's work.

Panel chaired by Lawrence Shindell
The lively panel discussion led by art law attorney Lawrence Shindell examined the impact of current authenticity issues on the art market. The expertise of the responding panel drew on multiple perspectives ranging from those of the legal and academic communities to market economics.  The panel included Dr. Friederike Grafin von Bruhl, William Charron, Randall Willette, Dr. Jeroen Euwe and D. Anna Dempster.

Following the panel discussion, the congress group traveled for an exclusive view of the exhibition "Mondrian and Cubism, Paris 1912-1914” (in partnership with MOMA) at an opening hosted by the Mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, and presentation by Hans Janssen, curator at large for modern art.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.

February 17, 2014

Dick Drent, Corporate Security Manager for the Van Gogh Museum, returns to Amelia to teach "Risk Assessment and Museum Security"

Dick Drent
Dick Drent, Corporate Security Manger for the Van Gogh Museum, will return July 12 - 16 to Amelia to teach "Risk Assessment and Museum Security" for ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crimes and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Before joining the staff at the Van Gogh MuseumMr. Drent worked in law enforcement in the Netherlands for 25 years, mostly in teams fighting organized crime and for few years as a liaison for the Dutch police for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. During the last 13 years in law enforcement, he worked as a coordinator with the National Undercover and Sensitive Operations Unit. In January 2005, he started as the Director of Security with the VGM before being appointed eight years later as Corporate Security Manager of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam where he is responsible for the development and realisation of security related issues (like policy, strategy, operations, risk assessment and management within the whole of the enterprise). In addition, Mr. Drent has a security consulting company, Omnirisk, which has provided services on the new Vincent Van Gogh Museum opening in Arles in April 2014; the renovation project of the Noordbrabants museum in Den Bosch (opened in 2013); and the renovation of the Dordrecht Museum in Dordrecht (2008-2010).

What makes your course relevant in the study of art crime?

The relevancy of my course is actually the solution for fighting crime against art in general. This is a firm statement of course but solving a crime against art is re-active and not protecting the art or cultural heritage. In a sentence: It is a tool to get the bad guys and recover, preferably undamaged, the stolen items. The power and strength of protecting art lies within the pro-active phase. How do you protect and secure your items, whether they are paintings, objects or other parts of cultural heritage? How do you prevent that something or anything will happen to it? These are the questions that will try to answer in my course.

What will be the focus in your course?

The focus on my course is that by the end of this course students will have gained an understanding on:
• The reasons why security should be an intrinsic part of a museum or other cultural heritage organization;
• The structure necessary to secure cultural heritage by ways of thorough risks analysis, combined with security measurement and proper training of staff; 

• A working knowledge of how to conduct a facility check via an audit within a museum or cultural heritage organization.; and
• An overview of working in a security role in a museum.
Do you have a recommended reading list that students can read before the course?

In addition to various course materials, students will be asked to read my chapter "Security for Temporary Exhibitions: Regular, Customized, or Bespoke" in Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger, 2009) from the ARCA library. I recommend that students read Managing the Unexpected, resilient performance in an age of uncertainty by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe (Jossey-Bass, 2007).

January 5, 2014

Postcard from Paris: ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins on artworks on display with history of theft

Robert-Fluery's 'Last Days of Corinth', Musée d'Orsay
This post begins a four-part series written last autumn during New Zealander's Judge Tompkins sojourn to present papers at an Interpol DNA conference in Lyon. Consider it a warm-up to the ARCA blog traveling to Paris next week.

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

Friday morning the 1st of November, my first day in Paris on this trip, dawned under leaden skies drizzly rain and a cold-ish breeze. Undaunted, and drawing inspiration from the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, in which the character Gil, played by Owen Wilson, enthuses, “Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain?”, I set out on a carefully chosen Velib bike from the stand up the street, for an early morning ride around central Paris, in search both of nostalgic sights, and coffee.

My route took me across to and up the middle of Il St Louis, over to Il de la Cite (where there is a huge temporary grandstand in front of Notre Dame, apparently part of the 850 year anniversary commemorations of the cathedral – but it does somewhat spoil one of the great views in Paris, that of a deserted front of Notre Dame as the sun rises), and then across to the Left Bank and along the riverside.

My progress was punctuated by a horn being sounded and an admonitory gallic finger being waved at me by the uniformed driver of a police van, full of what looked liked dishevelled revellers who had crossed paths with the police that night and were being driven into the Conciergerie – although not to the same ultimate fate as an earlier sometime resident of that forbidding police station, Marie-Antoinette, I hoped – as I thought about, but did not, cross a pedestrian crossing on my bike against a red light right in front of his van.

I also managed two very satisfactory coffee stops, in corner cafes that were sleepily opening up in advance of the morning’s onslaught of workers and tourists.

Vincent van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet"
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
I had decided to visit the Musée d'Orsay and then in the afternoon I planned to head to the Louvre. The former was achieved after a 30 minute wait in line, in the drizzly rain, and was as rewarding as ever. An unexpected highlight was turning a corner and coming face to face with Robert-Fluery’s ‘Last Days of Corinth’ – which my students from this year will undoubtedly remember that I used in my Art Crime course when discussing Rome’s sack of Corinth in 149BC, and also two in particular of the many Van Goghs. The first was a self-portrait sold by the Nazis in 1939 at the notorious degenerate art auction held at the Fischer Gallery in Switzerland; the second a version of the infamous Portrait of Dr Gachet, acquired by Goering and traded by him to a dealer in Amsterdam, from where it eventually ended up being purchased by a Japanese industrialist [the Musée d'Orsay's Portrait of Dr. Gachet entered the state collection in 1949].

After lunch, a drizzly walk across the Tuileries Gardens, with a small detour to pay homage to Rose Valland’s memorial plaque on the corner of the Jeu de Paume, took me to the Louvre. The vast queue at the main entrance was avoided by buying my ticket in the hidden-away Tabac store in the nearby underground shopping centre, and then using the priority entry lane, and a lovely three hours followed.  Huge crowds were, as always, overlooking the largest stolen painting on public display anywhere in the world – Veronese’s "The Wedding at Cana" – by concentrating on the Mona Lisa on the opposite wall, and also largely ignoring the other da Vinci paintings in the Grand Gallery nearby, including his John the Baptist, supposedly da Vinci’s last painting, which was acquired by King Charles I but then sold to the French by Cromwell’s Commonwealth after Charles was executed.

My time in the Louvre was also marked by an entertaining vignette, which took place in front of Uccello’s Battle of Romano – one of three paintings that make up the series, the other two being in the Uffizi and London’s National Gallery. Seated on the bench in front of the painting, an American man was talking loudly and long on his cellphone, discussing for all to hear, and in some detail, the structuring of an investment “opportunity”, whilst his wife sat next to him, a look of increasing annoyance on her face, her body language speaking volumes of the way in which her husband was ruining the much-anticipated (by her) and expensive (to him, no doubt) visit to the Louvre.  My guess is they had words later …

I also hunted out the Louvre’s two Vermeers, the Lacemaker and the Astronomer. The latter, reputedly Hitler’s favourite painting, was looted by the Nazis after the occupation of Paris from the Rothschilds and hung in the Jeu de Paume for inspected there by Herman Goering, but ultimately sent to Germany and intended as the centrepiece of Hitler’s Linz Museum. In the latter part of the war, after the Normandy landings, it was stored in the Aut Ausee saltmine, and rescued from there by American troops, as a result of the work done by the Monuments Men.

August 6, 2013

Christie's evaluation of art collection at Detroit Institute of Art is part of applying for bankruptcy, according to the city's emergency manager

van Gogh's Self-Portrait, DIA
Christie's auction house's evaluation of the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Art is part of the process of Detroit's eligibility for a municipal bankruptcy, the city's emergency manager Kevin Orr explained in a press release ("Christie's auction house hired to appraise city-owned pieces in Detroit Institute of Art," Associated Press for The Washington Post, August 6, 2013)
There has never been, nor is there now, any plan to sell art,” Orr said in a news release. “This valuation, as well as the valuation of other city assets ... is a step the city must take to reach resolutions with its creditors and secure a viable, strong future for Detroit and its residents.” 
The DIA told The Associated Press in a statement Monday afternoon that it would cooperate in Christie’s appraisal process, but pointed to a formal opinion by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette that said city-owned DIA pieces can’t be sold in a bankruptcy proceeding. He said in June that the artwork is held in a charitable trust for Michigan residents.
Diego River's fresco Detroit Industry
Founded in 1885, the DIA has more than 100 galleries in 658,000 feet and displays an art collection that features Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle (Gift by Edsel B. Ford) and Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait, "the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum collection" purchased by the Reinhardt Galleries for the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts, website). Here's a list of favorite pieces in the collection selected by the DIA staff. The museum owns five paintings by van Gogh. In addition to the four-wall fresco by Diego Rivera, the DIA also has a portrait of Edsel B. Ford by the 20th century Mexican muralist.

June 17, 2013

Amsterdam Diary: "Van Gogh at Work" rebukes myth of solitary impulsive genius with the story of a disciplined artist influenced by his peers

Crowd at Van Gogh's Potato Eaters Sunday afternoon
AMSTERDAM, Sunday - This weekend the Van Gogh Museum attracted the same high-density crowd through its doors as the nearby Rijksmuseum. After a nine-month closure, the museum re-opened with "Van Gogh at Work", an educational exhibit focusing on Vincent Van Gogh's disciplined training to be a painter, independently studying drawing and color. It's a theme once confined to the subterranean level of the VGM in the exhibit on Vincent's drawings, but is now extended throughout four levels of gallery space.

Early paintings at the Van Gogh Museum differ in style (darker in color and theme) from those works in museums ( in California or Paris lighter more popular works later sold in the secondary market), serving as a reminder that Vincent sold only one painting and traded a few others; his family donated a huge collection which makes up the majority of the Van Gogh Museum's collection.

"Van Gogh at Work" puts the evolving styles of the artist into context as Vincent learned how to use materials and developed his style, evolving from an academic painter to a modern artist beginning at the age of 27:
In the 19th century, artists normally learned their trade by taking lessons at an academy or in a well-known artist's studio. They were taught by the traditional method, drawing from plaster copies of ancient sculptures and from nude models. Van Gogh, too, took lessons of this kind, although never for very long: no more than eight months in total. In 1880 he studied at the academy in Brussels and in 1881 in Anton Mauve's studio in the Hague; in 1885 at the academy in Antwerp, and in 1886 in the atelier of the painter Fernand Carmon in Paris. In the end, Van Gogh learned his craft mainly by spending countless hours at home copying drawings and paintings. He chose subjects of all kinds, from plaster models of the kind used at the art academy to a worn-out pair of shoes.
The exhibit includes paintings of a 'worn-out pair of shoes', black chalk drawings of a seated girl and another of a seated male nude, and his pencil drawing of a standing nude woman.

As a struggling artist, Vincent returned to live with his parents and worked in a shed behind the parsonage.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863),
Apollo Slays Python, is a preliminary
study for his painting ceiling at the Louvre.
In Nuenen, Van Gogh read books about colour theory. He learned about complementary colours (red and green, yellow and purple, blue and organge), which contrast and thereby heighten each other's effect. Yet this did not lead him to use brighter colours right away. Instead, he mixed complementary colours into his dark earth tones. It was only later, in Paris, that he saw paintings with powerful colour effects and gradually began to appreciate the potential of colour. Eugène Delacroix became his chief model. Other major influences included Neo-Impressionists such as Seurat and Signac. They used dots and short brushstrokes to set up contrasts between complementary colours, creating bright, colourful paintings. Van Gogh incorporated these diverse influences into his own personal style. This opened the way to the expressive works for which his is well known, in which colour plays the leading role.
In addition to the famous two-month living arrangement with Paul Gauguin in Arles (for which occasion he painted the series of sunflower pictures), Vincent had other relationships with painters, including Emile Bernard (1868-1941). Vincent asked Gauguin and Bernard for their self-portraits in a trade, and those paintings are on display (with each of them showing the other in the background).

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Les Misérables
 (Self-portrait with portrait of Bernard)

Repeatedly in the exhibit, conservators site examples of paint analysis, such as the 'grains of sand and bits of grass and leaves' 'discovered in the paint layers of some of his works' that indicate the artist worked outside on some canvases (Van Gogh at Work Highlights, page 6). Research showed that Vincent re-used materials -- x-ray photographs and pigment analysis showed that the artist painted over pictures to save money on purchasing new canvases (as it was he often felt guilty for purchasing supplies on the limited funds his brother Theo sent him, according to Vincent's letters).

Metal Detectors at the VGM

The Van Gogh Museum uses metal detectors to screen visitors (the Rijksmuseum does not); all restrooms are located in the basement of the four-story building (the Rijksmuseums places toilettes in pairs on each floor); and the cafeteria and large seating area accommodates crowds quickly (lunch at the cafe at the Rijksmuseum can take an hour). But both museums give the option for female security guards to wear scarves instead of ties (just saying).

Discussion of security can be summed up by a comment from another security museum official:
As you may know, we never speak about our security in public. But in general, I can tell you that one of the main challenges for every museum is to create the optimum balance between protecting the collection and offering the best hospitality for all visitors.
And with free Wi-Fi, the Van Gogh Museum also encourages visitors to promote the institute through social media.

The exhibit ended with 'probably' the last known painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Tree Roots, 1890: "He did not complete it: the top is almost finished, but the lower half had not yet been worked out in detail."

Vincent Van Gogh, Tree Roots, 1890
The exhibit is a result of the research project 'Van Gogh's Studio Practice', initiated in 2005 by the Van Gogh Museum, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and Shell Netherlands. A symposium on the subject is scheduled for June 24-26, 2013.

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor and the Van Gogh Painting

Vincent Van Gogh's "View of the Asylum and Church at Saint-Remy/Sage Recovery
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

Elizabeth Taylor, actress, film star and the founder of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, was also the owner of an 1889 painting by Vincent van Gogh, "View of the Asylum and Church at Saint-Remy", she had to assert legal ownership of in 2007 when the descendants of the former owners claimed that the painting had been stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

According to media reports here and here, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco affirmed Taylor's ownership of the painting that her father had purchased for her at Sotheby's in 1963. The heirs of the former owners had waited until 2004 to claim that the painting had been stolen although it had not been listed in any database for stolen or Holocaust-looted art database.  I was wondering about this case this morning so I made unofficial inquiries through my experts on Holocaust looted art to get their opinion: although the strict interpretation of Military Law 59 'any transaction is null and void between 1933 and 1945 and the onus is on the good faith purchaser to demonstrate his or her good faith' but that conditions around the sale of the painting may not have constituted a forced sale.  For me, this is the importance of using the courts to settle these disputes.

The photo for this painting was obtained from the website for Sage Recovery, which helps to recover objects looted during the Nazi era.  Their review of the case can be found here.

February 26, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Noah Charney Reviews "A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth"

In the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Noah Charney reviews Henk Tromp's book, "A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth" (Amsterdam University Press 2010).
"The art world wants to be trick," Noah Charney writes. "That is certainly the conclusion one comes away with after reading A Real Van Gogh, Henk Tromp's thoroughly researched, highly readable, fascinating new book, which uses the history of van Gogh authenticity and forgery debates to discuss what happens in the art world when someone cries wolf. It's not a pretty picture for the expert who deigns to proclaim a work inauthentic."
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

February 15, 2011

BBC reports Scientists Used Analytical Tools to Study Color Changes Over Time

BBC reports the findings of a study of the deterioration of the color yellow to brown in some of Vincent van Gogh's paintings:
"The researchers found that a change in the oxidation state of the element chromium (from chromium 6 to chromium 3) was linked to the darkening of chrome yellow paint."
For more information, read the complete article ("Van Gogh paintings 'degraded by UV-driven reaction'") on the BBC here.

Photo from the BBC website: Van Gogh's "Banks of the Seine", Oil on canvas, Paris, 1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands