Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thousands of hours of work . . . . . and for what?

One question I receive now and then is "What is the difference between your website, and" It’s a long story.

About thirteen or fourteen years ago my Van Gogh website was still in its infancy. I was using a small, local internet provider and, the bigger the site got and the more visitors it received, the more bandwidth I had to pay for (over my monthly limit). It reached the point where the website was costing me nearly $100 a month. This couldn't continue so I put a message on the site saying "This Van Gogh website will shut down. Can you help?" I eventually received an e-mail from an art print company called Barewalls who offered to secure a new URL for me where I could keep maintain my site for free. It sounded like a good deal (at the time).

So over the many years to follow my Van Gogh website, at the URL I came up with:, did well. Thousands of hours of work went into the site, from scanning, to helping with the complete letters, to webpage creation. It took a number of years, but eventually the site included the complete art works and letters of Van Gogh and, as a result of all my hard work, ranked #1 for "Van Gogh" on search engines.

Eventually I realized that "leasing" the URL from Barewalls probably wasn't in my best interest, given how much time and effort I had invested. I made an offer to buy the URL from them. The owner of Barewalls put me off for a full year and a half before finally refusing to even consider selling me the URL that I had helped make #1. Eventually Barewalls sold all of its assets (including to another company. Which in turn later sold it to yet another company.

So I had no choice but to secure a URL in my own name ( and move all of my content over. I kept an eye on over the course of a year or so. With all of my material removed there was almost no content and that was fine with me. Strangely retained its #1 search engine ranking even without my content, whereas my new URL,, did fairly poorly in the rankings. But such is life.

Eventually however all of my material magically rematerialized on the URL. All of the thousands of scans that took me so much time and trouble to put together—-there they were. I contacted the new owners of and told them about the situation. They told me that when they bought the assets of Barewalls the URL was included in the sale and that all of my material was as well. I assured them that this wasn't the case and even received confirmation of this from the former owner of Barewalls. Still, the new owner of wouldn't relent. In the end, they had a legal department at their disposal and I had nothing. Once again all of the material I worked so hard on was stolen and once again there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

The whole situation is hugely disappointing to me. To see everything I worked on for years vacuumed up and republished by someone else. I rarely visit because I find what happened so maddening, but I had a quick look recently and was especially mortified to see that they had posted a prominent thank you along the lines of "Thanks to all of you for making us the #1 Van Gogh site on the internet!" This was especially galling in that it was, in fact, me that made the #1 Van Gogh site on the internet. The new owners of simply benefited from the endless labours of my hard work. For which I received absolutely nothing in return.

My own Van Gogh website,, doesn't rank well on the search engines despite the fact that it's comprised of the same material that allowed me to make #1 all those years ago. I've looked at every possible solution to no avail.

In the end, I suppose it's my own fault for allowing someone else to own the URL to a site that I committed thousands of hours to. What can I say? I was young and foolish. But it's still immensely disappointing to me to see others profit from years of my hard work and I remain, not only uncredited, but absolutely powerless in remedying the situation.

So there's your answer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

New Language for the Van Gogh Gallery

Over the years people have written to me and volunteered to translate blocks of my website into their language. I've always been very grateful for the opportunity to present The Van Gogh Gallery in other languages. It's been a couple of years since I launched a new language on my website, but my latest translation volunteer has been working hard and I'm pleased to announce that the Gallery's 20th language is now online.


A strange and challenging language to my eyes, but very interesting. And, as with many of my translators, I'm also enjoying the pleasure of getting to know the translator, Inanc, and to learn about the day to day life of someone who lives in Turkey.