The Stolen Van Goghs. The Story Behind the Sensational Theft of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring and 57 Other Van Goghs

Original title: De gestolen Van Goghs. Het verhaal achter de sentationele diefstal van Lentetuin en 57 andere Van Goghs

Author: Boon, Lex

Publication Date:

November 2024

Pages:

256

Original language and publisher

Dutch | Meulenhoff

Territories Handled

Worldwide excl. Dutch

Genres

Art, Narrative Non-Fiction

The Stolen Van Goghs. The Story Behind the Sensational Theft of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring and 57 Other Van Goghs

Original title: De gestolen Van Goghs. Het verhaal achter de sentationele diefstal van Lentetuin en 57 andere Van Goghs

Author: Boon, Lex

Synopsis

The intriguing stories behind the theft of dozens of Van Gogh paintings. Who were the thieves and how did they operate? And how did the canvases find their way back to their rightful owners?

Lex Boon is an exemplary storyteller, skilled at uncovering the most entertaining and thrilling stories and talking to the most captivating individuals.

Van Gogh and his paintings continue to intrigue people: a stolen Van Gogh immediately becomes global news and is widely covered in all media.

Boon delved into international archives, gained information from famous art detective Arthur Brand and spoke to former art thieves.

In March 2020, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh was stolen from the museum Singer Laren. The following afternoon, journalist Lex Boon listens to the distraught managing board of the museum. Will the painting ever return? Boon decides to research how big those odds are, based off the results of past cases. As this is certainly not the first time that a Van Gogh has been stolen.

His research yields remarkable stories. Among others about guerilla fighters in Venezuela, a drunken sailor in Paris, and a cleaner in Den Bosch. And that is only the beginning. Boon reveals 29 different thefts that have occurred since the Second World War, through which 58 works by Van Gogh were stolen in total. In order to find out what it is actually like to steal a Van Gogh, Boon searches out several former art thieves. Thus, he finds out, in conversation with a tram driver from Amsterdam, why the biggest Van Gogh heist of all time – when during the night of April 14th 1991 twenty paintings disappeared from the Van Gogh Museum – failed in the end.

Extract: 

‘A story about another theft has haunted my mind for weeks because it is such an absurd robbery. A crime passionnel, not for profit and without violence, but only as a tribute to Van Gogh.
At least, that’s how it seems from the few small reports I find.
On an autumn night in 1972, the British sailor Peter Neave was walking drunkenly through the streets of Paris. Earlier that day, he had walked past Rue Lepic 54 in Montmartre, the place where Vincent van Gogh had lived for a while almost a hundred years before. To Neave’s dismay, the house was completely neglected. There was not even a plaque on the wall to commemorate the painter.
When the 23-year-old art lover was sitting in a café that evening, after a few glasses of wine, he suddenly had an idea. He walked to the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, broke a window with his shoe, and took the first Van Gogh painting he saw off the wall. With The Bedroom in Arles under his arm, he started his mission, but he did not get far. Upon his arrest, and later in court, he explained what he had intended to do: he wanted to hang the painting on the façade of the neglected house in Montmartre, as a tribute to Van Gogh.
The thief’s punishment was light. “We believe his story,” the authorities said. “Young Monsieur Neave does not have a good education, but he has learned a lot about art through reading. He is an idealist.”’

Praise for his previous books:

‘A masterful book, I read it with immense pleasure.’ — DWDD

‘And darn it, what a delightful book Ananas is. I never knew that non-fiction about pineapples could turn out to be such a page-turner. (…) Open this book and the sun will start shining.’ — de Volkskrant

‘An intriguing book. His style is witty and playful. This book is a breath of fresh air.’ — NRC

‘A remedy for heartbreak.’ — Trouw

‘One of the most extraordinary stories of the year. It resembles a novel.’ — LINDA