Tuesday, December 6, 2011

That strange, wild man . . . . .

Yesterday I watched once again the 2010 Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor." The more I see the episode, the more I'm starting to like it. The story has its flaws certainly, but there are moments that are extremely moving. For example, when the Doctor takes a despairing Vincent to a Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay in 2010, Vincent discreetly listens while the curator gives his opinion about the artist:

"To me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time--the most beloved. His command of colour, the most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world . . . . no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived."

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Hello, all! Just a brief note to mention a few small updates I've made today. Nearly two years ago the Rhode Island School of Design took a disputed painting in their collection to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for authentication. After a careful analysis it was determined that their painting was a genuine Van Gogh. I was pleased to officially add it once again to the site. You'll find it at View of Auvers with Church.

Also, I received a nice story from someone in the Netherlands titled "Van Gogh in the Attic." It's about Van Gogh paintings being stored in the attic in Holland in the years before Van Gogh's works became famous. An English and Dutch version of the story are available in the Archives section.

More updates soon!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Van Gogh photo reproductions exhibition

I've been asked to help organize a large exhibition of photo reproductions of Van Gogh's works in Amsterdam next year. A sort of "dream exhibition" of Van Gogh's works--it should be wonderful. My first task--to choose which works will be included. Not easy! Van Gogh produced more than a thousand paintings, drawings, watercolours and letter sketches in his early (pre-Paris) period. Of those I need to select . . . . . 37. A real challenge! But an enjoyable one. Selecting the most representative pieces of a larger puzzle--the most beautiful Van Gogh works that best illustrate his progress as an artist.

Stay tuned . . . . . .

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I found a Van Gogh in Grandma's attic . . . . . .

My Van Gogh website has been online for fifteen years now. Over the course of these years BY FAR the question I’m asked most frequently is “I believe I have a previously known Van Gogh. How do I get it authenticated?” Although this is answered in Question #1 on my Frequently Asked Questions page, the same topic comes up over and over again.

I’ve received more than a hundred of these enquiries and in all these years not one has ever been authenticated. AND the vast majority of the time the images that are sent to me show works about as likely to be by Van Gogh as dogs playing poker.

I always refer people on to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They’re the only ones who can officially authenticate a Van Gogh work and, frankly, they’re also paid as museum staff for dealing with this sort of thing (and I’m not). For the most part these enquiries have been fine—brief and pleasant enough. But now and then I’m put in the unenviable position of dealing with a real lunatic.

Case in point: a number of years ago someone in Australia wrote to me to say that he not only had one unknown Van Gogh drawing, he had a whole pile of them! Against my better judgment I had a look at the images and, as expected, they were all absolutely rubbish. Over the course of more than a dozen e-mails I answered multiple Van Gogh related research questions. Eventually I referred him on to the VGM and that’s when the trouble began. Not surprisingly the Van Gogh Museum quickly determined that it was impossible that Van Gogh drew these works. And that’s when the flood gates opened. This man started writing me over and over again. Begging, pleading. His messages became more and more delusional. He was going to blow the art world sky high with the revelation of his “treasures.” He would destroy the Van Gogh Museum. He would receive world-wide attention and directors the likes of Steven Spielberg would want to make a movie about him (he actually believed that).

I quickly tired of the nonsense and that’s when accusations of a grand conspiracy started. He claimed that I was part of some Van Gogh “cabal” that was determined not to recognize his beautiful Van Gogh drawings. He said that I was the keeper of a vast array of secrets and that it was time to “spill the beans.” On and on his delusional accusations continued. All in all, I’d spent a number of hours of my time answering this fellow’s questions, giving him advice, etc. and my only reward was to be accused of lying and deceit. Foolishly this man sent all of his e-mails using his work (a hospital) e-mail address. Fed up, I reported the whole incident to his hospital’s human resources department and, after a few more feeble messages, he stopped writing.

This is an extreme example, of course, but it was still part of an endless stream of people who are convinced that they own a Van Gogh. In the end, the best advice I could give is to just put the “treasure” back in Grandma’s attic where it belongs.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Random VG #4

Book: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (Grand Central Publishing: 2010)

Chapter 15: "A hand lifted the velour to reveal a Van Gogh drawing so fine that the only improvement it could make would be to turn itself into a painting. It showed Van Gogh's finest landscape subject, wheat fields being harvested by workers loading wheat into a hay wain."

[Note: The work in question is a watercolour, not a drawing.]

Chapter 19: "The brunette leaned the two paintings on either side of the Van Gogh on the floor, giving the gouache breathing room. The director turned to Talley. 'Do you know this picture?'

The sujbect was a green boat on yellow sand next to a blue sea, eighteen by twenty-four inches, under glass. 'Of course I know the painting, but I didn't know there was a gouache. It's wonderfully fresh,' said Talley, standing and examining it. Lacy came close. The signature 'Vincent,' made her feel that the artist was nearby, that his brush had just lifted off the paper."

[Note: A character in Martin's book says that this work was seized from the Germans during the war and that it was to be returned. The work, however, is still in the collection of the Hermitage.]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Currently reading . . . .

I would encourage everyone to share their thoughts on any Van Gogh related books they're reading these days.

Right now I'm reading A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth by Henk Tromp. This book was published in Dutch in 2008 (I believe) and an English version came out in 2010. Excellent research and engaging writing make this a very enjoyable book. It focuses on the first efforts to catalogue Van Gogh's works (something near and dear to my heart as a cataloguer of Van Gogh's works for more than fifteen years now). It then moves on to the various scandals and controversies concerning authenticity over the years. Lots of underhandedness and back stabbing--the stuff of high drama . . . . drama that continues to the present day. Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Random VG #3

Television show: Doctor Who
Episode: The Lodger (Season 5)
Air date: 12 June 2010
Time: 07:31

One of Van Gogh's self-portraits can be seen on a postcard taped to a refrigerator.

Film: Despicable Me
Release date: 9 July 2010
Time: 1:02:26

A framed Starry Night (very likely meant to be the original) can be seen leaning against a wall.

Television show: Dexter
Episode: Living the Dream (Season 4)
Air date: 27 September 2009
Time: 27:35

A framed print of Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries can be seen on the wall.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Van Gogh Museum on YouTube

Just a brief note to encourage everyone to visit the Van Gogh Museum's channel on YouTube:


The VGM has been putting out videos focusing on specific paintings. I've found these videos to be very enjoyable, informative and entertaining. Be sure to check them out!