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Van Gogh

Van Gogh

1. Vincent van Gogh paints the view of the parsonage garden from his parents’ house in Nuenen in May 1884.

2. Van Gogh moves to Antwerp in November 1885.

3. He leaves much of his work, including The Spring Garden, behind in Nuenen.

4. Van Gogh’s mother and sister move from Nuenen to Breda in 1886, bringing his works with them in crates.

5. In Breda the crates are stored in the attic of the carpenter Adrianus Schrauwen.

6. Van Gogh's mother and sister move to Leiden three years later. The crates containing his art are left behind with the carpenter.

7. The carpenter, Adrianus Schrauwen, deals in metal and building materials, and his neighbour Johannes Couvreur wants to buy some old copper. Schrauwen points at the crates in the corner and says, “But you have to take that junk too.” Couvreur agrees.

8. Schrauwen takes the paintings and drawings out of the crates and throws them out the attic window one by one.

9. Couvreur and his wife have a look at the drawings and paintings. They discover many nude studies. Couvreur’s wife is not pleased.

10. Couvreur takes all the drawings he deems in any way offensive to the paper mill in Tilburg. There, they are pulverized and turned into new paper.

11. Couvreur takes a few of the remaining works to the local café and tacks them up on the bar. Anyone who buys him a beer gets a Van Gogh.

12. Couvreur tacks the rest of the works to his cart and takes them with him to the market. He gives a group of children a few paintings to play with.

13. The clothier Kees Mouwen becomes interested in the works. He buys six for ten guilder cents each. The following day, Mouwen’s servant knocks on Couvreur’s door and asks if he has “any more of those things for sale.” He tells her he does, “but now they’re 25 cents each.” The servant buys the works at the new price.

14. Mouwen realises the works might be worth money.

15. Mouwen asks the unsuspecting Couvreur to buy back all the drawings and paintings he had sold to others.

16. Everyone who had bought a work from Couvreur pays him a visit.

17. In 1903 a large Van Gogh exhibition opens at the Oldenzeel gallery in Rotterdam. The public is bewildered. The galleries are filled with paintings and drawings unlike anything people have seen before. The bank director Jacobus Anthonie Fruin probably buys The Spring Garden here.

18. The Spring Garden is exhibited at the Museum Boijmans in 1927. When Fruin dies in 1945, he leaves the painting to his nephew Willem Moll.

19. Moll bequeaths the work to the city of Groningen. It goes to the Groninger Museum, where it remains on loan for many years.

20. The Groninger Museum exhibits The Spring Garden often and loans it out to other museums.

21. In January 2020 the Singer Laren Museum borrows the painting from the Groninger Museum. On the night of 29 March 2020, a thief forces his way into the museum. He smashes the glass doors with a sledgehammer, runs inside, and pulls The Spring Garden off the wall.

22. The thief escapes on a motorcycle with the painting under his arm. Over the next three years, Van Gogh’s work does the rounds in the underworld, changing hands and crossing borders.

23. The Spring Garden has vanished without a trace.

24. In 2023 an unknown individual contacts the art detective Arthur Brand. He claims to have the painting in his possession and says he can return it to the Groninger Museum provided that his anonymity is protected.

25. Museum director Andreas Blühm and detective Arthur Brand sit waiting nervously in Amsterdam. Finally the doorbell rings. The anonymous person hands over an Ikea bag full of pillows. The pillows are carefully pushed aside to reveal the painting. They know instantly: “That’s it!”

26. The Spring Garden returns home to the Groninger Museum. All's well that ends well!