Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is one of the most famous artists in the world, celebrated for masterpieces such as The Starry Night and Sunflowers. The Dutch post-impressionist painter was hugely influential and productive, creating well over 2,000 art works in his favoured medium of oil on canvas.
His works are characterised by visible brushwork and vibrant colours, which at the time were viewed as strange and radical and he apparently only ever sold one painting during his lifetime. It was only after his death that his work gained widespread acclaim and popularity, and his most famous works are now worth upwards of $100m.
Van Gogh was an intense and sensitive man who tended to be solitary and suffered from deteriorating mental health as he grew older. He cut off part of his ear with a razor during a severe episode of depression in 1889, and was admitted to hospital and later an asylum.
During his recovery he produced many of his most famous paintings, including The Starry Night. Sadly by July the following year, his condition deteriorated and he died aged just 37 following a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the heart. Some historians believe that his death was not suicide but the result of foul play, but there is no definitive evidence for this.
He would never have any idea that his life and works would soon make him one of the most celebrated artists in the world. His instantly recognisable style of painting would be hugely inspirational for generations to come. Even his lesser known early works fetch several million pounds at auction, which makes them a target for international art thieves.
In March 2020, one such masterpiece, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, was stolen from a Dutch museum in Laren, to the south east of Amsterdam. The thieves were soon apprehended, but the painting could not be discovered, and Dutch police engaged the services of Arthur Brand, known as ‘The Indiana Jones of the Art World.’
He told The Guardian: “It was world news at the time when it was stolen. We are Dutch, it happened in the Netherlands, so it was a disaster.”
He added: “Luckily, the police were able to arrest everybody involved: the thief who got eight years and a fine for €8.7m, the intermediaries were caught, the buyer was caught, everybody was in jail, but the painting was still not there …”
“Eventually, I got contacted by somebody who said: ‘Mr Brand, I could turn in the Van Gogh, but I don’t want to get into trouble.’ I had to gain his confidence, and when I had, yesterday, he decided to deliver it to my home.”
Although the painting is valuable, it was impossible to sell because the theft was widely publicised, and so it was a hot potato that no one wanted to touch. This led to the eventual return of the painting to Brand in an Ikea bag. The individual returned it in exchange for complete confidentiality.
If you have an artwork to display that you acquired entirely legitimately, please visit our framing shop in east London.