By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Art thieves stole a Van Gogh painting from a museum in the Netherlands, NPR reported. The painting is titled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, 1884 and was painted that same year. Van Gogh’s work was Post-Impressionist and very influential.
According to NPR, the Van Gogh painting was on loan to the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam, although it is permanently a part of the Van Gogh collection at the Groninger Museum in the northern part of the Netherlands.
“Police say the break-in took place at about 3:15 a.m. local time,” the article said. “The thieves smashed through the glass door at the museum’s entrance and only took the Van Gogh. The museum has been closed to the public since earlier this month because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it was initially unclear whether its overnight security staff or other measures had been reduced because of health concerns.”
Vincent van Gogh is one of the best-known European painters, having excelled at Post-Impressionism.
Early Van Gogh
To get a better understanding of what the Singer Laren museum lost, it may help to look at Vincent van Gogh’s life and impact on the art world.
“Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was born in the Netherlands, the son of a pastor,” Professor William Kloss, art historian and scholar, said. “He jumped from job to job as a young man before finally turning to art, with the support of his brother, Theo, when he was 27 years old. Through his brother, Van Gogh discovered that he could use drawing as a means of recovering his mental balance; he spent some months working in a painter’s studio in Brussels and may have attended classes at the Academy.”
Professor Kloss said that Van Gogh taught himself perspective, anatomy, and physiognomy before making his 1887 self-portrait Self-Portrait as an Artist, which is said to be one of two dozen self-portraits in a two-year period. In his opinion, this is Van Gogh’s first self-portrait painted with confidence and a full use of the color palette.
Van Gogh had only pursued his art career professionally for a few years before his death in 1890, but aside from his striking self-portraits, he also left behind one of the most famous paintings in Western culture.
The Starry Night
Van Gogh’s The Starry Night has been admired and studied since its debut in 1889. Professor Kloss said it’s often cited as one of the leading precursors to German and Nordic Expressionism.
“The paintings of these months are full of passion and turmoil, although only The Starry Night pushes these emotions to the extreme,” he said. “In this case, the extreme is abstraction, not in the 20th-century sense, but in the sense of painting the natural world from memory and imagination, rather than face to face.”
Professor Kloss added that in a letter to Emile Bernard in December 1889, Van Gogh criticized himself for “reaching for stars that are too big,” referring to the painting as a failure. Van Gogh committed suicide the following year.
The NPR article covering the theft pointed out that the robbery of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, 1884 isn’t the first of Van Gogh’s works to be stolen. The article said that a 1991 theft resulted in the brief loss of 20 of his paintings, while a 2002 theft involved two of his other works that took 14 years to recover.
Professor William Kloss contributed to this article. Professor Kloss is an independent art historian and scholar who lectures and writes about a wide range of European and American art. He was educated at Oberlin College, where he earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Art History.