136-yr-old Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum closed due to Covid-19 – art and culture

Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, whose 167th birth anniversary was commemorated yesterday by the Van Gogh Museum and other art enthusiasts around the world, painted several landscapes containing flowers (mostly roses, lilacs, irises, sunflowers), Cypress tress, flowering orchards and gardens. Some of Van Gogh’s work reflect his interests in the usage of colour, and Ukiyo-e, a phrase used to describe a school of Japanese art depicting subjects from everyday life, dominant in the 17th–19th centuries.

The painter created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which in the last two years of his life. These include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, characterised by bold colours and expressive brush strokes. The style contributed to the foundations of modern art in a large way.

Van Gogh believed that the effect of colour went beyond the descriptive. “Colour expresses something in itself,” he said. The colour yellow meant the most to him, symbolising emotional truth. The artist is known to have used yellow as a symbol for sunlight, life, and God in his work.

The painting called Lentetuin, or Spring Garden, an 1884 painting showing the spring garden of the rectory at Neunen was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands overnight, the museum said yesterday. The museum has been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The painting had been on loan from the Groninger Museum.

The 25-by-57-centimeter (10-by-22-inch) oil on paper painting shows a person standing in a garden surrounded by trees with a church tower in the background.

The Singer Laren museum east of Amsterdam said The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 by the Dutch master was taken in the early hours of Monday. By early afternoon, all that could be seen from the outside of the museum was a large white panel covering a smashed door in the building’s glass facade.

Museum General Director Evert van Os said the institution that houses the collection of American couple William and Anna Singer is “angry, shocked, sad” at the theft.

Van Gogh’s paintings, when they rarely come up for sale, fetch millions at auction. Police are investigating the theft.

“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” said Singer Laren museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm.

“This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen – removed from the community,” he added. “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”

This image released by the Gronninger Museum on Monday March 30, 2020, shows Dutch master Vincent van Gogh’s painting titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” which was stolen from the Singer Museum in Laren, Netherlands, Monday March 30, 2020. The Dutch museum that is currently closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus says the was stolen in a smash-and-grab raid overnight. (Groninger Museum via AP Photo)

The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring dates to a time when the artist had moved back to his family in a rural area of the Netherlands and painted the life he saw there, including his famous work The Potato Eaters, in mostly somber earth tones, particularly dark brown, and showed no sign of the vivid colours that distinguish his later work.

Van Gogh developed a far more colourful, vibrant style of painting as his health declined before his death in 1890.

Police said in a statement that the thief or thieves smashed a glass door to get into the museum. That set off an alarm that sent officers rushing to the museum but by the time they got there the painting and whoever stole it were gone.

A team including forensics and art theft experts was studying video footage and questioning neighbours. Van Os said the museum’s security worked “according to protocol,” but he added: “Obviously we can learn from this.”

The Dutch government on March 12 banned large crowds among its measures to halt the spread of the virus, leading several museums to close temporarily.

Before the closure, the museum was hosting an exhibition titled Mirror of the Soul with works by artists ranging from Jan Toorop to Piet Mondrian, in cooperation with Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

The Singer Laren’s collection has a focus on modernism such as neo-impressionism, pointillism, expressionism and cubism.

It is not the first high profile theft from the museum. In 2007, thieves stole seven works from its sculpture garden, including a bronze cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. The famous sculpture was recovered a few days later, missing a leg.

— with inputs from AP

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