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Vincent van Goghs paintings and drawings are fabulously expensive.

Millions of people admire his work, but are those masterpieces all genuine?
To this day, the international art world struggles to separate the real Van
Goghs from the fake ones. The key question in this book is what may
happen to art experts when they publicly voice their opinions on a particular
Van Gogh (or not).
The story starts with art expert J.B. de la Faille who discovered to his own
bewilderment that he had included dozens of fake Van Goghs in his 1928
catalogue raisonn. He wanted to set the record straight, but met with


strong resistance from art dealers, collectors, critics, politicians and others,

marking the beginning of a fierce clash of interests that had seized the art
world for many decades of the twentieth century. In his fascinating account
of the struggle for the genuine Vincent van Gogh, Tromp shows the less
attractive side of the art world. His reconstruction of many such confronta-
tions yields a host of intriguing and sometimes bewildering insights into the
fates of art experts when they bring unwelcome news.

Henk Tromp is a cultural anthropologist and works at Leiden University.

This is research of a kind that is seldom performed by art historians, who

are more interested in whether a given work is genuine or not than in the HENK TROMP

process by which opinions are formed. Time after time, Tromp discovers
that key agents allow their judgment to be guided by their own financial in-
terest. In day-to-day practice, the ethics of this behavior is not questioned
either in the courts, the art trade or the art-historical literature.
Gary Schwartz

Based on prodigious research, Henk Tromps work provides a fascinating

case study of the problem of authenticity. This question of what is real and
what is true extends far beyond the realm of art history and may be the
most difficult cultural and moral issue all of us face today.
Modris Eksteins, Professor of Modern History at the University
of Toronto and author of Rites of Spring
Amsterdam University Press
9 789089 641762
Amsterdam University Press

TROMP_Van Gogh WT.indd 1 10-06-10 12:24

a real van gogh

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Henk Tromp

A Real Van Gogh

How the Art World Struggles with Truth

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Cover illustration:UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collec-
tions, Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives. Copyright Regents of the University of
California, UCLA Library.

Cover design: Studio Jan de Boer, Amsterdam

Layout: V3-Services, Baarn

isbn 978 90 8964 176 2

e-isbn 978 90 4851 141 9
nur 646

The English translation has been subsidized by the Netherlands Organization for Scientic

Henk Tromp / Amsterdam University Press, 2010

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of
this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise)
without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book.

Every effort had been made to obtain permission to use all copyrighted illustrations repro-
duced in this book. Nonetheless, whosoever believes to have rights to this material is advised
to contact the Publisher.

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Tis with our Judgments as our Watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

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Table of Contents

Dramatis personae 9
Introduction 13

1 An eye for an eye 25

2 True colors 57
3 Hushing up 85
4 For arts sake 107
5 The expert tamed 129
6 Retaliation 171
7 An uneasy legacy 191
8 Between a rock and a hard place 203
9 Among art experts 231
10 The gift 255
11 The unfinished Vincent 273

Acknowledgments 301
Notes 305
Archives 329
Illustrations 331
Bibliography 333
Index of names 345

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Dramatis personae
in order of appearance

Leading roles
J. B. de la Faille (1884-1959): Lawyer, critic, journalist, art dealer, curator,
and auctioneer. Francophile, campaigned against German expansionism
during the First World War in the Netherlands. Compiler of the catalogue
raisonn of Vincent van Gogh (first edition, 1928; second edition, painting
catalogue, 1939; posthumous edition, 1970).

H.P. Bremmer (1871-1956): Critic, painter, art educator, patron, dealer, cu-
rator, art collector, and advisor to Mr. and Mrs. Krller. Great admirer of
Vincent van Gogh. Gave courses in practical aesthetics. Acquired a fol-
lowing among the wealthy middle class. The art pope of the Netherlands
until the mid-twentieth century. Awarded an honorary doctorate by the
University of Groningen in 1951.

V.W. van Gogh (1890-1978): Civil engineer, nephew and heir of Vincent
van Gogh. Known in the art world as the Engineer. Owner of the largest
number of Van Goghs in the world, which he gave on loan to the Stedelijk
Museum in Amsterdam in 1930. Chairman of the Vincent van Gogh Foun-
dation. Co-founder of the Expertise Institute in 1952. Awarded an honorary
doctorate by the University of Amsterdam in 1954. Entered into an agree-
ment with the Dutch state in 1962 for the establishment and construction
of the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh.

A.M. Hammacher (1897-2002): Critic; director of the Aesthetics Depart-

ment of the Dutch post office; after 1945 director of the Art Division of the
Ministry of Education, Art and Science; in 1948 appointed director of the
Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller. In 1952 extraordinary professor of art history

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at the Delft Institute of Technology. Awarded an honorary doctorate by the
University of Utrecht in 1958. Writer on Vincent van Goghs life and work.
Editorial chairman of the posthumous edition of De la Failles Van Gogh
catalogue between 1961 and 1970.

Supporting roles
C. Veth (1880-1962): Journalist, critic, writer whose works included De
advocaat in de karikatuur.

H. Krller-Mller (1869-1939): Art collector, wife of millionaire A.G.

Krller. Vincent van Gogh was the focus of her art collection, which she
passed on to the Dutch state between 1928 and 1935.

O. Wacker (1898-1970): Dancer and Berlin art dealer. Sold 30 paintings

between 1926 and 1928 that were allegedly by Van Gogh. Convicted of fal-
sification of documents in 1932.

W. Scherjon (1878-1938): Printer and publisher of art books, critic, col-

lector, and art dealer. Compiler of Van Gogh catalogues published in 1932
and 1937.

L. Justi (1876-1957): Art historian, director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin

from 1909 to 1933. Assistant librarian at the Nationalgalerie until 1946, then
director of the State Museums in Berlin (German Democratic Republic).

J. Meier-Graefe (1867-1935): Art historian, writer, critic. Champion of

modern art in Germany. First in Germany to own a painting by Van Gogh.

A.M. de Wild (1899-1969): Restorer, dealer, and chemist. Pioneer of the

scientific analysis of paintings.

Chester Dale (1883-1962): American banker, millionaire, and art collector.

Sat on the boards of several American museums. Appointed President of
the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1956.

dramatis personae

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W. Jos. de Gruyter (1899-1979): Graphic artist, critic, director of the
Groningen Museum (1955-1963), then chief curator at the Gemeentemu-
seum in The Hague. Published a Van Gogh catalogue with W. Scherjon in

J. Walker (1906-1995): Art historian, chief curator, director of the National

Gallery of Art in Washington.

W. Sandberg (1897-1984): Graphic designer, joined the staff of the Stedelijk

Museum in Amsterdam in 1938 and later became its director (1945-1962).

W. Goetz (1903-1969): Director of Universal Studios, millionaire, and art


Margrit de Sablonire (pseudonym of M.A. Bicker Caarten-Stigter,

1905-1979): Writer and translator. Secretary of the Expertise Institute from
1952 to 1959.

M.M. van Dantzig (1903-1960): Restorer, art expert. Developed pictology,

a method for establishing the authenticity of paintings.

H.L.C. Jaff (1915-1984): Art historian, curator, and deputy director of the
Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Writer on aspects of Van Goghs life and
work. Wrote his doctoral dissertation in 1956 on De Stijl. Became professor
of modern art at the University of Amsterdam in 1962.

Paul Gachet (1873-1962): Son of doctor and art collector Paul Ferdinand
Gachet (1828-1909), from whom he inherited works by Vincent van Gogh.
Donated a large portion of them to the French state between 1949 and 1954.

M. E. Tralbaut (1902-1976): Journalist, art critic, and art historian. Writer

on aspects of Van Goghs life and work. Awarded his doctorate for a disser-
tation on Van Goghs stay in Antwerp.

A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn (1912): Art historian. Head of the Depart-

ment of Modern Dutch and Belgian Art of the Netherlands Institute for Art

supporting roles

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History. Between 1961 and 1970 she worked on the posthumous catalogue
raisonn of Vincent van Gogh.

politicians, government ocials, public sector employees, journalists, detec-
tives, public prosecutors, judges, lawyers, artists, cartoonists, critics, forgers,
and many others.

dramatis personae

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In 1897, the French painter Judith Grard copied a self-portrait of Vincent

van Gogh owned by Paul Gauguin. She signed the painting with daprs
(after) Vincent Judith, fully in accordance with the rules governing the
copying of works of art, and sold it for a small amount of money to the
art dealer Amde Schuffenecker. Many years later, in 1911, she attended
a Van Gogh exhibition at the Eugne Druet gallery in Paris. Included
among the paintings by the master she saw her own copy, but much to her
surprise it had been altered. The green background, which she had faith-
fully copied years before, had been covered with flowers, and her signature
had disappeared. The following exchange took place between herself and

Druet: Beautiful, isnt it? And quite genuine, you know...

Grard: I dont believe a word of it!
Druet: I assure you it is!
Grard: And I am sure that it is not by Van Gogh because I painted it myself.
Someone has tampered with it, but I recognized it immediately. A forgery has
been made of my copy.

That evening she related the incident to her husband. She thought the forg-
ery should be exposed, but he strongly disagreed: Dont do it. Youll just
provoke the art dealers and cause distress to the buyer, who thinks hes got a
proper, genuine Van Gogh. If he thinks its beautiful, hes happy, and youll
only spoil his happiness. If he bought it because he thinks its genuine,
then hell be punished by a higher form of justice. Just leave it alone.1 She
took his advice and kept quiet. Druet managed to sell the painting shortly
thereafter to the Berlin banker and art collector Paul von Mendelssohn-

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Bartholdy. The Van Gogh expert Jacob Baart de la Faille included Grards
copy in his 1928 Van Gogh catalogue raisonn under the title Self-Portrait
with Flowers, number F 530. Although Grard told her story to a magazine
a few years later, and De la Faille knew about it, he continued to insist that
the work was a genuine Van Gogh.2
Judith Grard and her husband were artists. They were not art experts,
the individuals who are the focus of this book. However, this anecdote
sheds light on an intriguing aspect of the controversies over genuine and
fake Van Goghs that have been raging for more than a century and that
Judiths husband so clearly expressed: why would you deliberately want to
incur the displeasure of others, in this case of dealers and collectors? Stand-
ing up for the truth is something you may live to regret sorely. This admoni-
tion has greatly interested me in recent years, and as a result I began a search
for everything by and about Van Gogh experts that I could lay my hands
on. This is derived from a book by Andr J.F. Kbben and myself, De on-
welkome boodschap, of hoe de vrijheid van wetenschap bedreigd wordt (Unwel-
come tidings, or how the freedom of science is being threatened), in which
we discuss what can happen to a researcher if commissioning authorities or
superiors find his/her research displeasing. Unwelcome tidings are those
that threaten to harm the interests (material or otherwise) of a person or
organization, or that are politically inopportune; that tarnish the position
or prestige of the highly placed; or that offend national or religious feel-
ings or any other kind of idealistic sentiments. 3 In that book we dealt with
many affairs that involved such tidings, paying particular attention to the
means objectionable and less objectionable by which interested persons
attempt to limit or avert any harmful consequences. The publication of
the book caused quite an uproar in the Netherlands in 1999. Later on we
thought it was unfortunate that we hadnt paid any attention to historians.
They, too, sometimes serve as the bearers of unwelcome tidings and simi-
larly come under fire. This book is intended to rectify that deficiency, so it
is based on the same questions we posed in De onwelkome boodschap. What
I initially had in mind was a broad approach, but for practical reasons I
decided to limit myself to a single example, although it is an example that
covers a good many years: the battle over the authenticity of works by
Vincent van Gogh. The questions are: 1) What were the factors behind the
attitudes of the Van Gogh experts and others involved in the conflicts over


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. Vincent van Gogh: Selfportrait
dedicated to Paul Gauguin,
(F ), , , x , cm.
Fogg Art Museum.

. Judith Grard: Selfportrait of

Vincent van Gogh, (F ),
, x . Fondation
Collection E.G. Bhrle.


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authenticity; and 2) what could happen to a Van Gogh expert if he/she was
the bearer of unwelcome tidings concerning the authenticity of works by
Vincent van Gogh?

Art experts make it their business to acquire, increase, and maintain their
authority. They use their knowledge as specialists in an attempt to gain in-
tellectual ascendancy over a public of colleagues and laymen. The develop-
ment of the profession of art expert has never been the subject of systematic
study, however. Art sociologists have skirted the issue for the most part,
as we see in Sociology of the Arts by Victoria D. Alexander.4 Although she
made the division of labor in the art world an important theme (as How-
ard S. Becker did before her in Art Worlds), art experts are conspicuously
absent from sociological discussions of the world of art.5 The historian Jo-
seph Alsop, however, in his The Rare Art Traditions, demonstrates that they
are among the most important actors involved in shaping the modern art
world because their job is to provide works of art with their true history.6
He contends that the specific character of the art world lies in the practice
of collecting art as it began in Italy during the Renaissance. From that mo-
ment on, collectors began accumulating objects that have a special beauty
and a specific history but are not meant for practical use. In this way, col-
lectors created an art market. Dealers appeared who specialized in buying
and selling art objects, and art collectors began competing with each other
for unique items to add to their collections. Collectors have specific prefer-
ences, and this stimulated the supply in certain segments of the art market.
Dealers began to specialize. Competition and business went hand-in-hand
with assessment and reassessment. Art critics got involved, resulting in the
establishment of standards of taste.
As tastes change, diversification arises in the art business and among col-
lectors. Competition leads to higher prices and ultimately to super prices
for works of art. As Alsop shows, fake works of art are bound to be put
into circulation as a result. Art experts play a key role here, since they
provide the true history of art objects. This highly simplified summary of
Alsops historical analysis is consistent with notions and theories on the
division of labor and specialization from the social sciences. In Painting,


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Power and Patronage, Bram Kempers discusses the rise of the professional
artist in Renaissance Italy.7 The formation of this profession was marked
by the development of a particular pattern of values in which individuality
and autonomy came to occupy a prominent place, along with specific orga-
nizations, types of behavior, feelings, notions, and taboos. No comparable
sociological study has been done on the development of the profession of
art expert.
The research conducted by Carol Gibson-Wood on connoisseurs from
the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries is mainly historiographic, but her
work, along with other historical studies of art experts like Jonathan Rich-
ardson, Giovanni Morelli, and Berend Berenson, provides points of access
for my own sociological approach to the struggle over genuine and fake
Van Goghs.8 The same applies to the studies of Dutch art historians, such
as Hildelies Balks work on art expert H.P. Bremmer and Peter de Ruiters
book on A.M. Hammacher.9 I have made grateful use of their research in
order to shed light on a few crucial aspects of the formation of the profes-
sional art expert.
Art experts derive their authority from the idea that their sole interest is
that of pursuing the truth. The authority of Van Gogh experts was based
on their knowledge of the life and work of the artist. In a few cases they
combined this with collecting a considerable number of his works or car-
ing for them for extended periods of time. De la Faille owed his position to
the catalogue raisonn that he compiled himself, the first edition of which
appeared in 1928. During his lifetime he died in 1959 no one else put
a comparable catalogue on the market and, curiously enough, since the
publication of his posthumous catalogue in 1970 (see Chapter 11), no other
catalogue raisonn of the works of Vincent van Gogh has been published.
Bremmer and Hammacher derived their authority from their publications
on Van Gogh and from the management of the second largest collection of
the works of Vincent van Gogh: the Krller-Mller collection. Finally there
was Engineer V.W. van Gogh, who was the owner and caretaker of the larg-
est number of Van Goghs in the world. As we shall see, each of these men
aspired to establish, maintain, and increase their authority and power.
The struggle over the authenticity of works by Van Gogh really has to do
with who could claim the title of authoritative expert on his work, and it
was manifested in attempts to support, limit, or undermine that authority


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in others. The stories in this book usually start with a reasonable question
about whether a painting or drawing could be attributed to Van Gogh, but
they escalate into disputes because the authority of the expert proved insuf-
ficient to convince those who had a stake in the matter. These stakeholders
also included fellow experts who felt their authority was under attack and
could turn to any number of powerful people to prove they were right.
In the twentieth century these were mainly collectors, museums, govern-
ments, and the law. Unlike medical specialists, lawyers, and accountants,
art experts have no organization of their own to admit persons to their
profession by legal means and the power of the government. They do not
undergo any kind of process to attain professional status in this limited
sense of the word. But the idea of joining together in order to uphold cer-
tain professional norms was discussed several times within the Van Gogh
world during the twentieth century. It played a role in the twenties, but no
concrete results were forthcoming in the thirties and forties. The idea per-
sisted, however, and in 1952 it led to the founding of the Expertise Institute
(see Chapter 9). The goal of the Institutes initiators was to use the power of
the Dutch government to put an end to the activities of independent experts
who, in their eyes, were not passing impartial judgments on the authenticity
of works of art.
The main focus of this book is on the art expert as investigator and truth-
teller. The experts on Vincent van Gogh supposedly established the au-
thenticity of his work by using methods taken from historiography and the
natural sciences. But in many cases they passed contradictory judgments
about what was and what was not from the hand of Vincent van Gogh. Part
of this can be explained by differences in knowledge and methodology, but
another part has to do with social factors. Both lend themselves to a socio-
logical approach. The insights of the sociologist Robert K. Merton provide
a suitable basis for understanding the attitude and actions of Van Gogh
experts. He has described science as an organized, social activity that derives
its specific character from a distinctive system of norms. In this system, the
norms impartiality and skepticism play a prominent role. Impartiality means
that when conducting their research, scientists are guided by no other value
than the truth. Skepticism means that they base their conclusions on em-
pirical observation and logic. Science is also subject to two other norms:
that researchers make their findings and methodology accessible to others and


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that they evaluate them without respect to persons.10 Merton shows that prac-
titioners of science regularly mention and comply with these norms in their
writings. He also shows that they sometimes violate these norms.
Professions in the art world have undergone a process of differentiation
and specialization. They differ from each other on the basis of specific ideals
and material interests. The crucial point is that many of the individuals in this
book combined those professions in a single person. Take the books central
figures: besides being an art expert, J.B. de la Faille was also an auctioneer,
dealer, curator, and critic; H.P. Bremmer was also a painter, collector, pa-
tron, art educator, critic, dealer, curator, and advisor; Engineer V.W. van
Gogh was also an owner of art and a curator; A.M. Hammacher was also a
critic, museum director, and curator. The Van Gogh experts were aware of
the inconsistency of the norms in the art world. As we shall see, when de-
termining the authenticity of paintings and drawings they were frequently
confronted with the dilemmas that telling the truth can entail. In such cases
this was the truth I say this just to be perfectly clear as each of them saw it.
Thus during the twenties De la Faille wrote that there was a clash of
interests between the art expert as someone who knows the truth about
works of art, the art critic or museum director as promoter of taste in art,
and the art dealer as businessman who is interested in making a profit.
Bremmer did not write about this topic, but his behavior clearly suggests
that his various hats caused him quite some concern because he always
felt compelled to conceal the fact that he had any financial interests in the
works of art he had recommended. The Engineer as an owner, caretaker,
and curator did not consider himself free to pass judgment on forged
Van Goghs that were the property of others. As director of the Expertise
Institute, he drew up and enforced certain norms and rules governing au-
thenticity. Hammacher, as a museum director, was reticent when it came
to statements about authenticity but like the Engineer he wanted to regu-
late the assessment of works of art, and he did that as editorial chairman
of De la Failles posthumous Van Gogh catalogue raisonn. He also made a
successful appeal to the Dutch state to keep rival experts from publishing
their own catalogue raisonn. Other experts who appear in this book also
served differing, sometimes conflicting interests. Disputes that arose over
authenticity were partly due to an inadequate division of roles played by
experts in the art world.


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In a number of these conflicts, experts allowed their own financial inter-
ests to prevail, or they chose to serve as spokespersons for the interests of
others. It goes without saying that the most important explanation behind
the development of conflicts over authenticity was probably the prospect of
gain or loss. After all, ever since the beginning of the twentieth century the
paintings and drawings by Van Gogh that were sold by art dealers or at auc-
tions had been increasing in value year after year. In the last decades of the
previous century, the prices of his paintings topped all others and became
the market leader for the prices of modern art in general. Vincents works
were a good investment.
The decision by wealthy collectors like Helene Krller-Mller and Ches-
ter Dale to refuse to accept the unwelcome tidings that they were the own-
ers of forgeries (see especially Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 7) had little to do with
money, however. The possible loss of tens of thousands of guilders or dollars
didnt really affect them because they had not purchased the paintings as
commodities. They were among the collectors who strove to enhance their
image and to immortalize themselves by means of their collections, and
they saw the commotion over the Wacker Van Goghs as a potential slur on
their honor more than anything else. In the first decades of the last cen-
tury, Vincent van Gogh was one of the modern painters. By the twenties,
the controversy over their aesthetic and historical significance was in full
swing, which meant that collectors who bought Van Goghs at that time had
taken a risk. It therefore makes more sense to see the art world as a body of
exchange relationships in which financial values are converted into power
and social prestige. Anyone with a large, beautiful collection can count on
garnering the interest of museums, auction houses, and the media. Such a
collector is assured a place in the hierarchy of the art world and may receive
accolades for his efforts. He creates a power position if he owns a large
number of works of art with the prospect of making future donations: he
acquires followers. By making those donations he obligates the recipient
and forces him to behave in a certain way. The donation binds the recipient
and the donor. This idea is further elaborated in Chapters 4, 7, and 10.
The work of Vincent van Gogh was part of a complex process of ideo-
logical formation in the Netherlands and Germany. One of the things that
had defined the genius of the Netherlands in the nineteenth century was
the life and work of the Old Masters of the Golden Age. The unification


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of Germany during that century also went hand in hand with attempts to
determine that countrys genius based on the work of artists, and for some
people this also meant Northern artists like Rembrandt. At the begin-
ning of the twentieth century, the moderns of which Van Gogh was
one had not yet acquired a permanent place in the national pantheon. A
controversy was raging in the Netherlands and Germany as to whether any
of the modern artists expressed the national genius and if so, which ones.
Van Goghs work had a symbolic value for the activities of political organi-
zations, who wanted to use it to underscore their unity and legitimacy and
therefore felt threatened by denials of authenticity. Van Goghs person and
work were also important for those searching for an individual notion of
God. The vocabulary with which they praised his works of art was taken
from that of the Christian religion. This blending of aesthetics and ideol-
ogy gave the struggle over authenticity a whole new dimension. Denying
authenticity could be experienced as the defilement of a personal or collec-
tive sense of meaning and purpose.

In De onwelkome boodschap, we identified the possible reactions to unwel-
come tidings, based on the cases presented, as follows: 1) acceptance, 2)
rejection, 3) hushing up, 4) challenging the tidings by rhetorical means,
and 5) (attempts at) silencing the bearer. 11 If the findings of a researcher
are accepted (Point 1), that would be the end of the matter, at least as far as
this book is concerned. His findings might also be rejected (Point 2), with-
out any negative consequences for the researcher. Such rejection may take
the form of a published text presented according to the rules of empirical
argumentation, but it may also come in the form of an insinuation, ridi-
culing or that other universal weapon, the ad hominem argument. Another
possibility is hushing up (Point 3), that is, pretending that the unwelcome
tidings were never announced. In this instance, the recipient may keep
the results to himself if they are not to his advantage. He may impose a
kind of gag order on the researcher, or he may ignore any negative results
and explicitly praise those research results that support his own interests.
Challenging the tidings by rhetorical means (Point 4) refers to purple prose
and bombastic and disingenuous linguistic usage meant to prove oneself


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right and to decimate ones opponent. 12 Point 5 (attempts at) silencing
the bearer refers to when an authority or person who has power over
the bearer of unwelcome tidings threatens him with sanctions if he dares
to make the information public, and in this way tries to discourage him
from doing so. The researcher can avert this by complying with certain
demands. As I shall demonstrate, these reactions are fully applicable to
my research on Van Gogh experts. Although the world of science differs
in many ways from the art world, this earlier analytical scheme still holds
In De onwelkome boodschap, we also discussed how various research-
ers with unwelcome tidings might react when put under pressure. There
are those who fight tooth and nail against any suggestion that they keep
their message to themselves or temper it in any way. Others try to work
out a compromise. Still others resign themselves to what they see as the
inevitable. Finally, there are those who, of their own free will, drop the
unwelcome results or gloss them over, and who therefore prefer to act as
some kind of advocate than as an independent researcher. As will soon
become apparent, this characterization is also quite useful for helping to
understand the reactions of Van Gogh experts involved in conflicts over

The research questions are rooted in twentieth-century Western art. Art
historian Erwin Panofsky is once said to have commented that sociologists,
who are mainly interested in theorizing, and historians, who just want to
report events, made him think of two neighbors fighting over the same plot
of land who never get anywhere because one has the gun and the other has
the bullets. It has been my intention, as an anthropologist, to put an end to
this standoff by wielding the one weapon that is perfectly suited to the art
historian: archival research. To answer the questions I pose in this book, I
have also carried out extensive and repeated discussions with persons from
the art world, far more than is customary among art historians. And in
describing and interpreting the events covered here I have been guided by
the prevailing theoretical principles of the social sciences. In this way I have
attempted to make a contribution to the broadening of social research with


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regard to scientific integrity and to a deepening of historical research on art
The Dutch Van Gogh experts H.P. Bremmer, J. Baart de la Faille, En-
gineer V.W. van Gogh, and A.M. Hammacher played a prominent role in
the twentieth century in the conflicts over genuine and fake works by Vin-
cent van Gogh, and my aim was to provide insight into their attitudes
and experiences. This led me to a study of documents, books, catalogues,
newspapers, and magazines. I also examined letters, annotations, minutes
of meetings, scrapbooks, and clippings in the archives of both organizations
and private individuals. With just a few exceptions, my requests to consult
confidential documents were all honored.
In pursuing my research, I conducted formal and informal discussions,
some of them repeatedly, with persons from the art world. Following the
example of sociologist J.M.G. Leune, I have broken down these discussions
into ones that serve an orienting, verifying, and supplementary function.15
The art world has its own norms and rules. The orienting discussions famil-
iarized me with the lay of the land and helped me understand the attitude
of experts and others when problems of authenticity arise. Some of the
discussions I conducted were aimed at verifying the intent of information
that was contained in written form. As I said, my research is based to a
great extent on catalogues, annual reports, minutes of meetings, newspa-
pers, magazines, personal annotations, and letters. Not everything concern-
ing authenticity has been committed to paper, however. Sometimes this
was because the matter in question was simply taken for granted by those
involved, that is, but not by the reader today. Sometimes it was because
the matter in question was of a sensitive nature, which people at the time
did not want to write about out of discretion or shame. As a result of the
discussions, I obtained a better understanding of what was intended in the
written information. Many documents from before 1970 are, however, no
longer available. Either they were cleared away because it is simply impos-
sible to save everything, or they were destroyed because the contents were
deemed too sensitive, or they were lost due to negligence or calamity. In
some cases, discussions with those who were directly involved helped me to
fill in these gaps.


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What does fake mean?
In this book, a fake Van Gogh refers to a work of art that is wrongfully at-
tributed to the artist Vincent van Gogh. Such an attribution may have been
made for three different reasons. First, it was a malicious forgery: someone
made a painting or drawing in the style of Van Gogh with the intention of
misleading others. Second, someone tampered with an existing object. Van
Goghs signature could have intentionally been applied to an existing work,
usually because his work commanded more money on the art market than
that of the actual maker. Another possibility is that the name of the actual
maker was removed in an attempt to sneak it into the Van Gogh oeuvre as
an unsigned work, as in the case of Judith Grard. Third, an error was made:
a work was wrongfully attributed to Van Gogh, but no dishonorable mo-
tives were involved. The Van Gogh experts are the focus of my research, and
the question is whether they knew that deliberate deception or erroneous
attribution was involved, and if so, when did they learn about it? And what
did they do with this information?

What you will NOT nd in this book

From the outset, I would like to spell out what readers should NOT expect
from this book. First, I will not try to establish which works of art were
actually from Vincents hand. Was the second version of the painting The
Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy painted by him or not? When was it
made? Who was the owner in 1889, 1898 or 1901? Do the carefully applied
brushstrokes indicate a forgery? I offer no answers to these kinds of art
historical questions that so occupy art lovers and connoisseurs. Second, I
present no black book or anything remotely like it about the art world
or the Van Gogh world in particular. While I may show the less savory side
of the art world in this book, this by no means signifies that it is all trouble
and affliction. I say this with a certain emphasis, since misunderstandings
are quick to take root.


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1 An eye for an eye

Vincent van Gogh died on 29 July 1890, leaving behind an oeuvre of un-
charted proportions. His brother Theo may have been aware of its size, since
the two men had been so close and Theo had supported Vincent in a number
of ways. But within just a few months Theo followed Vincent to the grave,
and he took his knowledge of Vincents work with him. A few decades later,
Jacob Baart de la Faille assumed the task of documenting the work of Vin-
cent van Gogh in text and picture. In 1928 he published his Van Gogh cata-
logue raisonn comprising 1,716 works, but it quickly became apparent that
some of the paintings in his magnum opus were not from Vincents hand. De
la Faille was shocked, and he made up his mind to correct his mistakes. In
late 1928 he rejected a few dozen paintings as fake Van Goghs, but in 1932 he
changed his mind and readmitted some of them as genuine, only to condemn
them again as fakes about 20 years later. Genuine, fake, genuine, fake: was
this an indication of instability, haste, excessive carelessness, or even more
painful (if that is possible) of an inated ego and sheer incompetence, as a
few contemporaries believed? Was this swing of the pendulum a sign of ex-
cessive skepticism, perhaps, or of what is called scope creep in managerial
circles? Was it an expression of lively scholarly inquiry, or were there other,
quite dierent factors at work? The search for an answer to these questions
reveals a fascinating history that centers on De la Failles eort to purify Vin-
cents work and to preserve his own integrity as a Van Gogh expert.

De la Faille
Jacob Baart de la Faille (1884-1959) did not seem predestined to leave his
mark on the work of Vincent van Gogh. He studied law in Utrecht and
led an active student life: he was a board member of the student associa-

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tion, a writer of reviews and poems (To a child: [...] O dream on in the
land of joy, / where everything glitters like gold / how gently life steals in
on us / and all of the wonders grow cold.).1 He received his doctorate in
jurisprudence on 2 June 1913, became a Dutch newspaper correspondent
stationed in Vienna, and established contact with artists of the Secession,
the Hagenbund, and the Klimt Group with an eye to promoting and selling
their work in the Netherlands. In June 1914, he was back in the Netherlands
as acting director of Larensche Kunsthandel, a company of Amsterdam art
dealers. Was this the beginning of a career in the art world? Perhaps, but
there was also another option. De la Faille was politically active, which at-
tracted the attention of the Movement Against the Pending Constitutional
Revision (ATAG) and of the General National Party, who wanted him as
their candidate in the 1918 elections for the Lower House of Parliament.2 He
never served in parliament, but his position during the Great War provides
insight into his personality insight that is essential for understanding his
attitude as a Van Gogh expert.

. Mr. J. Baart de la Faille and

his wartime art. Let the little
painters come unto me...

an eye for an eye

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During the First World War, the Dutch government assiduously guard-
ed the countrys neutrality, but the attitude of the elite was anything but
neutral. Some were intensely pro-German, others intensely pro-French (or
anti-German, if you will). De la Faille belonged to the latter group. He or-
ganized benefit exhibitions for Belgian artists at the beginning of the war.
This cost him his job at Larensche Kunsthandel, which did not think the
exhibitions were neutral enough.3 His zeal remained undampened, how-
ever, and he began collecting money and goods for the Serbian Red Cross,
protested against the policy of free passage for zeppelins, condemned the
presence of Dutch students at the Flemish University of Applied Sciences
in Ghent (which was under German control), engaged in polemics with a
lawyer who tried to gloss over the violation of Belgian neutrality, and was
the founder of the Dutch section of the League of Neutral Countries. 4 The
neutrality principle as an aspect of international law is a great good, the
League wrote. Neutral countries like the Netherlands could only maintain
such a principle by adopting a universal humanitarian and absolute legal
position, but with the understanding that the Entente would win the war.5
So the League interpreted neutrality in a very special way: as one of its
leaders said, Each person has two homelands, his own and France. There
were limits, not only to the notion of neutrality but also to the universal
humanitarian position professed by the League. When a newspaper asked
the Leagues leaders whether the Netherlands should offer as much help to
German children as to French and Belgian, the answer was negative. De la
Faille wrote communiqus, distributed stickers, sent out anti-German post-
cards, besieged meetings, denounced Dutch indulgence in short, made
sure that the Leagues voice was heard.
The war of attrition at Verdun in 1916 made a deep impression on De
la Faille. In scarcely five months, more than 200,000 French soldiers were
killed there (and almost as many Germans, but they could not count on his
sympathy). According to him, the war would have been lost without French
perseverance, and the Netherlands would also have fallen prey to Prussian
expansionism. De la Faille believed that the Netherlands was indebted to
the French defenders at Verdun, so he began raising money in the Neth-
erlands to have a cast made of the sculpture La dfense by Auguste Rodin.
In 1920, the monument was unveiled on the Esplanade de la Roche near

de la faille

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. August Rodin, La dfense.

During the Great War, De la Faille devoted himself to things that did not
benefit him financially and that involved taking risks as well.7 But he was
also proud to mention the many decorations he received for his endeavors:
the French Cross of the Legion of Honor, the Czech Cross of the Order of
the White Lion, the Belgian Cross of the Order of Leopold II, the Serbian
Commanders Cross of the Order of Saint Sava, etc. During the twenties, he
was a prominent figure at various festivities: the Relief of Leiden, tributes to
artists, and celebrations honoring the Dutch royal family. He was cultural
ambassador for the French principality of Orange, for the Kingdom of Yu-
goslavia, and for Czechoslovakia, and he liked making it known that he was
rubbing shoulders with the highly placed. De la Faille was clearly someone
who enjoyed the limelight: he was no stranger to vanity. Yet this attitude
was quite in keeping with the aggressive nationalism, hero worship, and the
almost inviolable sense of social position that permeated Dutch society at

an eye for an eye

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the time, far more than it does today. He was characterized as emotional,
a rather broad concept. Impulsive might be a better way to describe him.
If one of his ideals was at stake, he would immediately raise his voice even
though it might cause him harm. He was less concerned with the consis-
tency of his ideals than with the need to act; he was assertive and did not
give up easily. These characteristics also guided his career as an art expert
and an authority on the life and work of Vincent van Gogh, and made him
an exceptional figure in the Dutch art world. Needless to say, De la Faille
was no saint. He struck disingenuous compromises at decisive moments
and betrayed his ideals, as we shall see. He was like the militant preacher of
monogamy who gets caught in the act of adultery.
De la Faille eventually chose the world of art over the world of politics.
In 1916 he took a job as auctioneer with Frederik Muller & Co. of Amster-
dam, and in 1923 he became a partner and co-director of the A. Mak auc-
tion house. He also earned money working as a journalist, giving lectures,
writing art criticism, and issuing certificates of authenticity. One of De la
Failles lifelong interests was the theater: he directed, acted in, and wrote
plays, including Een inbraak (A Burglary), a comedy in one act, and De
oplichtsters (The Lady Racketeers), a tragedy in one act. Unfortunately, his
scripts are nowhere to be found and probably have not withstood the test
of time. The few available reviews of his dramatic work do not suggest that
the world lost a great playwright in the person of De la Faille. His career as
an art expert, however, can easily be described as a theatrical performance.
Whether we see it as a tragedy, a comedy, or a farce is really a matter of
taste. One thing is certain, however: the script was not from his hand alone.
There were others art experts, dealers, collectors, politicians, government
officials, and journalists who also put pen to paper, and each of them
would try to bend the action to his own advantage. None of them, however,
was able to determine the entire course of events regarding the authenticity
of the work of Vincent van Gogh, let alone predict the outcome.

Certicates of authenticity
The end of the Great War brought economic recovery to the Netherlands,
but it was short-lived. The political and economic climate in Germany was
even more volatile and precarious, if such a thing was possible. With the

certificates of authenticity

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deposition of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the authority of the state was completely
undermined. In the first six years after the war the Reichsmark suffered
devaluation after devaluation, with hyperinflation striking in 1923. Bank
balances lost all their value from one day to the next. In early 1923, one dol-
lar could buy 20,000 Reichsmarks; by the end of the same year, it brought
in 4.2 trillion.8 In this period of social unrest and economic decline, the
wealthy began investing in objects of value: precious metals, jewelry, art.
Experience taught that such commodities could be sold for their original
price or higher once the economic climate picked up. The wealthy saw
the paintings of Vincent van Gogh as a good investment. The growing
appreciation for Van Goghs life and work went hand in hand with rising
prices. By 1925 the value of his works had multiplied many times over since
the end of the nineteenth century. Cynthia Saltzman shows that Vincents
Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which was painted in 1890 and sold for 300 francs
in 1897, brought in six times that amount seven years later and 60 times
that amount 14 years later. (By 1938, the 1897 price had increased by a fac-
tor of 500, and in 1990, the canvas was sold for the tidy sum of 82.5 million
dollars.)9 That particular painting is regarded as a masterpiece, but other
paintings by Vincent were heading in the same direction. The demand was
there, and so were the price increases. Because the demand could not be
met, it became tempting to put works on the market that were not by
Vincent himself but closely resembled his style and to sell them as origi-
nal Van Goghs. Price increases also paved the way for forgers, who either
adapted existing canvases and added Vincents signature or fashioned their
own Van Goghs. Koldehoff writes that in 1899, a fake Van Gogh was sold
at the Ambroise Vollard gallery in Paris. Dorn and Feilchenfeldt report that
in 1901, Bernheim-Jeune had two paintings removed from the Van Gogh
exhibition in his gallery because they had been erroneously attributed to the
master.10 These were early attempts to sell fake Van Goghs possibly not the
very first and by no means the last.
The art trade tried to eliminate the uncertainty about makers of art by
calling on art experts. In the mid-nineteenth century German universities
began setting up degree programs in art history, with other Western Euro-
pean countries following suit. This gave rise to an influx in the number of
experts who could help buyers and sellers determine the provenance of a
work of art and the identity of the artist. The art expert, trusting in the

an eye for an eye

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eye and the images he had stored away in his memory, believed himself
capable of determining who the maker of a painting or drawing was. The
standard practice was that an expert would issue a certificate of authentic-
ity for a particular work of art at a fee. In the certificate he would name
the creator of the work and sometimes a few pertinent details, note the
place and date of the certificate, and close with the experts signature. The
widespread use of photography made it possible to combine the certificate
with an illustration of the work, in which case the expert usually wrote his
findings on the back of the photo. Some of the patriarchs of Dutch art his-
tory such as A. Bredius (1855-1946), Hofstede de Groot (1863-1930), and W.
Vogelsang (1875-1954) wrote many certificates of authenticity.

. J.B. de la Faille as auctioneer.

certificates of authenticity

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Conict of interest
In 1920 De la Faille published an article in the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Cou-
rant (NRC) on conicts of interest in the art world. Museum directors were
seeking extra earnings while being shielded by the status of their position, he
said, but they did not want to be known as dealers. He thought the govern-
ment should not allow them to issue certicates of authenticity at a fee: The
certicates of authenticity and originality that they grant, which all too often
are no more than letters of indulgence for the sins of copyists and forgers,
would also disappear.11 The article was published anonymously and caused
quite a furor. It led to a debate in the newspaper with a certain X, who ap-
peared to be quite familiar with the museum world. X thought De la Failles
article lacked careful reection, since directors of state museums were already
prohibited from engaging in commercial activities. De la Faille regarded the
dealers practice of giving works of art to museums on loan as outright
abuse. Dealers who displayed their wares there could be sure of a rise in
value, increased visibility, and hastened sales: We recall the dealer Delarof
who sold his paintings in the Netherlands via the Mauritshuis by sale to the
highest bidder, as it were. [...] Museum directorates should not be allowed
to serve such mercantile aims. It is an abuse of the museum and makes it
look like a commercial establishment.12 X did not feel so strongly about this
matter, as long as other owners had the chance to show their pieces as well.
He also approved of museum directors charging fees for certicates of au-
thenticity. This was exchanging knowledge for money, and there was nothing
wrong with that. In fact they ought to insist on being paid; either that or run
the risk of being overwhelmed by requests from private owners. De la Faille
profoundly disagreed: the certicates should be free, and if not, the money
should go to the museum and not to the director. X would have none of it.
He also thought that De la Failles criticism of museum directors who issued
certicates of authenticity for possibly forged works was irrelevant: Every
museum director (and art scholar) has had the experience of taking a forged
work for the real thing and conrming it in writing. The point is whether
the practice is intentional and whether it happens all too often. If it is, then
that is inadmissible. If it is not, then it is human and forgivable, as long as the
director is willing to admit his mistake.13 Was Xs admonition a reection of
reality? Had museum directors actually retracted their certicates of authen-
ticity? Had they admitted their mistakes to buyers and sellers? X did not say.

an eye for an eye

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In 1922 De la Faille criticized the German art expert Valentiner (1880-
1958), who had allegedly discovered dozens of paintings by Rembrandt.
De la Faille was scandalized by the ease with which Valentiner and others
increased the oeuvre of the Dutch Old Masters. The following table on
the various Rembrandt catalogues raisonns, which was not part of De la
Failles article, shows the extent of the problem.

Table 1 Number of paintings attributed to Rembrandt between 1836 and 1921

Publication Compiler Number
1836 Smith 620
1868 Vosmaer 342
1885 Dutuit 456
1897 Bode 595
1915 Hofstede de Groot 988
1921 Valentiner 706
Source: Bruin 1995, 184.

Over a period of roughly 90 years, the number of Rembrandts fluctuated

dramatically without any of the compilers bothering to account for the attri-
butions and rejections, according to De la Faille. There is no other painter
with so many discovered works as Rembrandt, he said. Why is that? Is
Rembrandt the most important master in the history of painting, or is he
one of the most highly regarded in the art market and should every discov-
ery be seen as a sack of gold?14 Connoisseur Hofstede de Groot responded
by coming to Valentiners defense, but he did not attempt to answer De la
Failles rhetorical question of whether commerce had obscured the percep-
tion of the masters work. The director of the Rijksmuseum, Dr. F. Schmidt
Degener (1881-1941), sent De la Faille his voice of approval: Your depiction
of the motives of those engaged in systematic discovery is all too correct.
He said Valentiners book makes a mockery of the master.15
The negative influence of the art market continued to concern De la
Faille the auctioneer. How could the practice be reined in, and how could
authenticity be established in an objective manner? In December 1924 he
called for the creation of an official authentication bureau in each country

conflict of interest

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that would research, certify, and register works of art. For each certificate
of authenticity, a fixed, low fee would be charged regardless of the outcome
of the assessment. The money would go to benefit the bureau, the experts
would be reimbursed for their expenses and would work free of charge.16
De la Failles proposal almost turned the prevailing practice of issuing cer-
tificates of authenticity on its head. Experts now worked independently for
the most part, but De la Faille wanted them all to work within one orga-
nization. Experts set their rates on the basis of market value (a Johannes
Vermeer certificate was more expensive than an Abraham Teniers because
it was based on the price that the authenticated work would command),
but the bureau would charge a fixed fee. Experts served the interests of
their clients, but with the intervention of the bureau they would have to be
totally impartial. The article was controversial, attracted attention, and was
printed in Dutch, German, and French.17
Art critic Cornelis Veth published a rejoinder. He acknowledged the
abuse mentioned by De la Faille: [...] any novice German art historian can
be found to issue a certicate of authenticity for an old Dutch work of art.18
The aairs being fought out in public concerning the authenticity of works
by Rembrandt, Hals, or Vermeer were damaging to the prestige of art history
as an independent eld of scholarship. The expert, like the judge, should be
objective in formulating his verdict. But what made Veth rise up in protest
was the notion of ocial in De la Failles proposal. That meant the Dutch
state would set up authentication bureaus, appoint ocials, and assume -
nancial responsibility. Veth rejected this in no uncertain terms: If a dealer
overcharges another dealer or a private collector for a particular painting or
some other art object, it is of no concern whatsoever to the public interest.19
The question that actually dominated their discussion was how to end
the insecurity of the art-buying public, not how to make people more
knowledgeable about art objects or what the art experts obligations were
regarding the cultural heritage. Veth and De la Faille both wanted to restore
buyers faith in the art market, and their answers were identical. Fixed,
low rates should be charged for certificates of authenticity, experts should
consult technicians in special cases, and well-documented reports should
be issued. Shared responsibility among the experts would make certificates
of authenticity more authoritative and give the public confidence. Veth
wanted technicians to play a major role in the authentication process be-

an eye for an eye

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cause basing a certificate on stylistic features could lead to foolishness.
The analysis of paint, canvas, and binding agents could provide conclusive
proof of a paintings age [...].20 Hard, technical research is objective, and
chemical and physical analyses transcend commercial interests. Veths as-
sumptions would come back to haunt him in 1932 (see Chapter 5). Both
Veth and De la Faille argued for the establishment of a council, not one that
would judge the value of the attribution but one that would judge the way
the certificate of authenticity was handled. De la Faille said that by official
authentication bureau he was not thinking of a national bureau: By of-
ficial bureaus I merely meant this: generally recognized, consisting of mem-
bers, chosen at a meeting of museum directors, art dealers, auctioneers,
recognized experts, etc. [...] Who among us is going to take the initiative?21
Such an initiative would be taken, not in 1925 but some 25 years later I
will come back to this in Chapter 9 and with consequences for De la Faille
himself; consequences he had not at all anticipated.

Vincents fame
Van Goghs work made an overpowering impression on De la Faille right
from the beginning. He wrote about it for the first time in 1913: [The
paintings], in all their brutality and ferocity, bear witness to a talent so full-
bloodedly anarchistic yet so great and so destructive of everything hum-
drum and traditional.22 In 1917 he decided to put together a catalogue
raisonn.23 As auctioneer at Muller & Co. from 1916 to 1923, he was fre-
quently involved in the sale of Van Goghs. The collection of the German
playwright Carl Sternheim, including ten Van Goghs, came under the ham-
mer in 1919.24 In 1920 the Rotterdam businessman Krller bought 20 paint-
ings by Vincent from the Enthoven collection at Muller. Research on the
catalogue reinforced De la Failles contact with Johanna van Gogh-Bonger
(1862-1925), widow of Vincents brother Theo (1857-1891), and with her
son, Vincent Willem van Gogh (1890-1978), who would be known in the
art world as the Engineer to distinguish him from his famous uncle and
namesake, an epithet that will be used throughout this book. He inherited
more than 250 paintings and over 500 drawings from Vincent van Gogh.25
He and his mother also owned a wealth of letters and other documents.
After the death of Vincent van Gogh, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger devoted

vincents fame

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herself to making his work better known through exhibitions and sales.
The correspondence between Theo and Vincent that she edited in 1914-1915
was published in several languages. The Van Gogh family never ventured
to compile a catalogue raisonn, so De la Failles project was especially wel-
come. He relieved them of a great deal of work and would increase public
awareness of Vincents art.
Working on the catalogue made De la Faille part of the machinery that
spread Van Goghs fame. He traveled throughout the Netherlands, France,
Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany to visit owners of Van Goghs work,
capture it in photographs, and track down its history. He arranged for works
from the Engineers collection to be shown in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Paris,
Munich, Hannover, and Berlin. He mounted exhibitions, gave lectures,
wrote text for catalogues, and took care of insurance and customs formali-
ties.26 He mediated occasionally between Engineer Van Gogh and potential

. De la Faille saw himself as a specialist in Vincent van Goghs French period. This
photograph, taken in around , shows him in the park of the hospital Saint-Paul-
de-Mausole in Saint-Rmy-de-Provence, where Vincent van Gogh lived between May
and May .

an eye for an eye

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buyers of works by Vincent van Gogh, for which he probably received a
commission.27 De la Failles interest in Van Gogh went even further: he took
the initiative to establish documentary Van Gogh museums in Arles and
Saint Rmy to keep the masters memory alive there; he devoted himself to
having a statue of Van Gogh erected in Nuenen; and he worked on setting
up the organization Friends of Vincent van Gogh and His Time. These ac-
tivities, and the rumor that he was compiling a Van Gogh catalogue, made
him a Van Gogh expert par excellence in the eyes of many. That is the way
he saw himself, too. In 1927 he put together an exhibition on Van Goghs
French period for the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris, which published a
catalogue for the event written by De la Faille. De la Faille knew that news-
papers often did not bother to edit compact press releases, so he praised
himself as the well-read Dutch critic, who has done more than any other
art historian to bring to light conclusive details about the turbulent life of
Van Gogh in France, and whose study and reconstruction of that period is
also unsurpassed by anyone in the field.28 Sure enough, French newspapers
reproduced the press release without changes. De la Faille had publicly
claimed a lofty place in the Van Gogh firmament, but it was a claim that
would not go unchallenged.

Catalogue raisonn
In early December 1927, De la Failles publisher distributed the two vol-
umes of the Vincent van Gogh catalogue raisonn containing entries for
862 paintings that De la Faille confidently attributed to the master. This
was followed in July 1928 by two more volumes containing 724 drawings,
119 watercolors, nine lithographs, one gouache, and one etching. He had
invested about 5,000 guilders in the catalogues production. The volumi-
nous work was published in French the language of the cultural elite
with a dedication that expressed an ardent union of national pride and
high culture: To my beloved France, the precious land of my forefathers,
which fostered the awakening of Van Goghs genius.29 It was groundbreak-
ing work, not only because it was the first Van Gogh catalogue raisonn but
also because it was the first such catalogue to treat a modern master. No
equivalent catalogues yet existed for moderns such as Czanne (1839-1906),
Gauguin (1848-1903), or Manet (1832-1883).

catalogue raisonn

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The design of the catalogue built on C. Hofstede de Groots magnum
opus, which dealt with Dutch painting from the Golden Age. For each Van
Gogh, De la Faille listed the most frequently used colors (the reproductions
were in black and white), the title, date and place of origin, dimensions and
technical details, owners, exhibitions, literature, and references to the let-
ters between Vincent and Theo in which the work is mentioned in short,
characteristics that could shed light on the works history. The function of
the catalogue was obvious: it would be consulted by anyone involved in the
sale of his works as buyer, seller, or agent. It simplified the task of making
an initial comparison, should an unknown work crop up that looked like a
Van Gogh.
The catalogue raisonn drew a border, which was of great importance
for the commercial value of a work. It established the size of the oeuvre,
and with it the sense of scarcity. A national bank that casually prints money
weakens the countrys currency. The same would be true of an art world that
did not concern itself with the number and identity of works attributed to a
particular artist. The function of the catalogue raisonn for the enrichment
of knowledge about the artist is also obvious: anyone wanting to know how
he had developed, what his influences had been, and what influence he had
exerted had to study the catalogue. If an unknown work were to suddenly
appear, it would have to be compatible with the works contained there. It
was a first point of reference and a universally accessible touchstone for any
study of authenticity. De la Faille had assigned numbers to all the works,
which publications on the work of Van Gogh gradually came to refer to as
F(-aille) numbers: with this tome, he had clearly left his mark on Van Gogh.
Critics in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and England were full of
praise. De la Faille had performed a feat of the utmost tediousness, or as art
critic Jo Zwartendijk (1889-1938) of the NRC graphically put it, Imagine
the correspondence involved in producing such a catalogue, the endless
writing back and forth, how many mistakes must have slipped in, how
many disappointments the photographic material must have given rise to,
not to mention the reluctance of collectors greedily guarding their trea-
sures, careless information that must have exhausted his patience at times,
incorrect data, offers of forgeries that were already far too numerous, and
on and on!30 The catalogue increased interest in Van Gogh. Critics empha-
sized the unique qualities of his personality and his work, and employed

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metaphors suited to his deification: [He] suffered, he endured, he was
crucified, a genius [...] a comet, etc.31 Those who entered the world of
Vincent van Gogh were treading on holy ground.
Despite all the praise, the reception of De la Failles magnum opus was
curious in many respects. First, the total number of write-ups was striking:
the harvest was lean when it came to reviews in the trade press, which was
odd given the fact that international appreciation for Van Gogh was on
the rise. Second was the length of the reviews. The influential Burlington
Magazine praised De la Failles catalogue in two short articles that were
conspicuous for their brevity. 32 The pieces in International Studio, Cice-
rone, La Renaissance de lArt, and La revue de lart were more descriptions
than fully developed, critical reviews. 33 Also striking was the absence of
reviews by Dutch writers who had helped establish Van Goghs reputation,
veterans like Just Havelaar (1880-1930), Richard Roland Holst (1868-1938),
A.C.A. Plasschaert (1874-1941), or beginners like W. Scherjon (1878-1938),
A.M. Hammacher (1897-2002), and W. Jos. de Gruyter (1899-1979). The
most glaring absentee was one of Van Goghs supporters from the very
beginning, H.P. Bremmer. One explanation is that Bremmer had been
thanked in the catalogue for his assistance. On the other hand, Bremmer
could have encouraged others to write a review, but no one from his circle
took up the pen.

In 1928, at age 57, Petrus Bremmer (1871-1956) could look back on a suc-
cessful career in the art world. He had done quite well for himself, catering
to the demand for art among the upper middle class of the late nineteenth
century. Growing prosperity, the desire to travel, and a passion for accu-
mulating things turned many people into potential collectors of modern
art. Yet as Bremmers biographer Hildelies Balk writes, many of them felt
insecure about their taste in contemporary art, which seemed to reject the
prevailing artistic criteria based on naturalistic rendering.34 What is modern
art anyway? How can one tell the difference between a real work of art and
the product of an uninspired hack? Bremmer, who had first aspired to a ca-
reer as an artist, took a tip from his brother-in-law, the cultural anthropolo-
gist Dr. S.R. Steinmetz (1862-1940), and began giving courses in practical


A Real Van Gogh.indd 39 29-5-2010 15:23:54

. H.P. Bremmer, about .

aesthetics in his home or in the homes of course participants. He taught

his pupils what to be aware of, how to look at the work of art, and how to
acquire the artists artistic emotion. He was opposed to the prevalent ap-
proach to art history that emphasized facts, themes, schools, and styles. Art
history is to art as theology is to religion, he taught. Bremmer traveled all
over the Netherlands to show off his enthusiasm for art, and he made his
name as an art educator. There were those who were deeply impressed by
him and would continue to sign up for his courses for years to come. About
35 years after his death, Balk spoke with some of Bremmers former pupils
who referred to him with emotion as a monument for the Netherlands.35
His circle of associates, Balk writes, reads like an excerpt from a Dutch book
of peerage. In 1904 Bremmer began his own monthly magazine, Moderne
kunstwerken (Modern Works of Art), which he stopped publishing in 1910,
then launched Beeldende kunst (Visual Arts) in 1913 of which he would be
the sole author until 1937. He published books, including the successful
Van Gogh: inleidende beschouwingen (Van Gogh: Introductory Discussion,
1911), was a curator of exhibitions, and an advisor to collectors. His most
important and profitable connection was with the wealthy businessman

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Anton Krller and his wife, Helene Krller-Mller. In the early twentieth
century the Krllers hired him as their advisor in building up an art collec-
tion. There was nothing timid about their approach. At Bremmers advice
they would regularly purchase dozens of pieces at a time during visits to
dealers or auction houses. By 1928 their collection comprised about 5,000
works of art.
Bremmer also served as a patron, and provided artists with allowances
from his own pocket sometimes for a good many years or persuaded
others, including the Krllers, to support them financially. He bought
their work, organized exhibitions, wrote about it, and recommended it to
course participants and collectors. His efforts benefited scores of artists,
among them Charley Toorop, Piet Mondriaan, and Bart van der Leck,
as well as less highly rated painters such as Truus van Hettinga Tromp,
Henri van Daalhoff, and Jan Zandleven. His assistance meant they could
hold their own in the art market, and some owed their success to his help.
Such financial support was dependent on Bremmers taste, of course. As
Piet Mondriaans work gradually became more abstract, he ran up against
Bremmers definition of acceptable painting. Mondriaan went his own way
and lost Bremmers financial support. The same was true of Bart van der
Leck, but he was unable to pull it off. After a few years he was forced to
return to the figurative work that Bremmer so admired, after which the
support was resumed.36 Something of a patron-client relationship formed,
which for Bremmer was inspired by a love of art as well as by the expecta-
tion of being able to sell the work. As so often happens with patronage,
the relationship was ambivalent and not merely friendly. After Bremmers
death in 1956, Van der Leck would describe him in Museumjournaal as
generous and a man of stature but also stubborn, domineering, and deter-
mined to have his own way.37
For Bremmer, Vincent van Gogh was the quintessential artist. He col-
lected his work, and in 1925 he owned 25 paintings and 47 drawings.38 He
published something about him almost every year from 1894 on, and con-
ferred on him a significance that was consistent with the cultural changes of
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the age of the worlds disenchant-
ment. As the meaning of life dictated by Christian churches gradually lost
its value, an all-out search began for new forms of spirituality a direct,
individual experience of the divine couched in a different but recognizable


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visual language. Here art played a key role. The ideal symbol of this search
was Vincent van Gogh, the son of a Protestant minister who left a brief
career in the art trade to try his hand at preaching, only to be disappointed
by failure, and finally decided to become an artist at age 27. He renounced
physical comfort and social prestige and was intent on developing a new
style of art that expressed a religiously charged sense of life: a lost Christian
who had found a new church in art. Bremmer identified with Van Gogh.
As Elly Stegeman has observed, he underwent a similar development: [...]
from naturalism via neo-impressionism to a personal idealism Van Gogh
in his painting, Bremmer first in painting but later in speaking and writing
about art.39 She points out that both of them believed they had a calling.
Bremmers aim was to be witness to a new aesthetic based on the idea that
an artist expressed his feelings in a work of art, and that the true art expert
could recognize those feelings.

. Cornelis Veth (), We need to hear Bremmers opinion.

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Bremmer wrote about European art from practically every period and
immersed himself in Chinese and Japanese art. Paintings, drawings, sculp-
ture, ceramics: he saw them every day in magazines, books, studios, muse-
ums, at auctions, and in the homes of artists and private individuals. They
were all given a place in Bremmers extensive archive, which contained pho-
tographs and magazine reproductions: if he saw a work unknown to him,
he would compare it on the spot with the visual archive in his head and
pronounce a judgment on the artist who made it. His opinion was highly
sought by dealers and private investors, and he issued certificates of authen-
ticity throughout his entire career. These would have numbered high in the
hundreds, but only a portion of them have been preserved. In retrospect,
Balk notes, Bremmer had made some remarkable discoveries, but in just as
many cases he got it all wrong. Art dealer N. Eisenloeffel, with whom Brem-
mer had done business, took notes on the subject. When a participant in
one of Bremmers courses bought a drawing by Odilon Redon on his own
initiative, Bremmer announced it was a fake: Bremmer says that even if
Mr. Redon himself were to come and say, this drawing is among the best
Ive ever made, Bremmer would answer that judging was his job, not Re-
dons. Eisenloeffel noted the same confident attitude with regard to a Van
Gogh: Roland Holst had been given permission to select a drawing from
Mrs. van Gogh-Bongers Van Gogh collection, which he sold to De Bois,
and Bremmer said it wasnt a Van Gogh.40
Balk suspected that Bremmers adamant pronouncement was prompted
by rivalry: Roland Holst had recognized the importance of Van Gogh be-
fore Bremmer did, and he announced it in writing. It is not known when
these judgments were made or when Eisenloeffel made note of them. Eisen-
loeffel was not the only one to comment on Bremmers authoritarian and
inflexible attitude with regard to authenticity. In 1910, when the Krllers
bought their first Van Gogh canvas Reaper with Scythe (F 688) at the
Cassirer gallery in Berlin, Bremmers judgment was inexorable: definitely
not a Van Gogh. He dissolved the sale and had the painting returned. Cas-
sirer followed this series of events with astonishment: Has the gentleman
gone mad? He himself had bought the painting from Van Gogh-Bonger,
an unimpeachable source.41 Balk suspects that Bremmer could not tolerate
the fact that course participants like the Krllers, whom he had initiated
into the world of Van Gogh only a few years before, had the audacity to


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buy something on their own.42 He brooked no contradiction when it came
to questions of authenticity. He was the sort of teacher who could not bear
to see a pupil equal or surpass him. Bremmers mixture of art and religion,
his identification with Van Gogh, his glorification of the intuitive faculties
in attributing and rejecting works of art, and his inner certainty about the
qualities of the true artist were an intoxicating cocktail that impeded every
attempt to discuss authenticity.
In all the years preceding his 57th birthday on 17 May 1928, Bremmer had
seldom met with any open criticism of his work style. He was an artist, cu-
rator, writer, critic, patron, advisor, collector, and dealer, and he performed
these roles with verve, making him something of a one-man band in the art
world. According to Balk, Bremmer gave little thought to these roles because
he was far too sure of himself. His behavior also lends itself to another inter-
pretation, however, according to which Bremmer was more than conscious of
the conicting interests combined in his person and at times acted in a way
that suggests tactical altruism: giving a high-value performance in order to
conceal a personal and material interest. Bremmer was motivated not only by
a seless readiness to help and an absolute love of art, not only by an unas-
sailable sense of his own importance, but also by shrewdness and calculation.
He had acquired power and prestige in the art world and was determined
to maintain his unique position. His reputation for being able to make and
break careers was distinctly exaggerated, but it was not far from the truth.

Friends of Vincent
In March 1928 De la Faille formed the organization Friends of Vincent van
Gogh and His Time, the purpose of which was to acquire works by Vincent
van Gogh and related artists for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.43
He invited Krller-Mller and Bremmer to become members, but both of
them turned him down. Bremmer thought there was more than enough
of Vincents works in the Netherlands and that it was better to support
living Dutch artists.44 Krller-Mller wrote that with her 97 paintings, 38
drawings, and eight watercolors by Van Gogh, the Netherlands already had
plenty of the artists work in its care.45 These words contain a hint of the
rivalry that existed between Bremmer and Krller-Mller on the one hand
and De la Faille and the Van Gogh family on the other.

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The discord probably began with the split between Bremmer and Johan-
na van Gogh-Bonger, writes Balk in her biography of Bremmer. Both had
helped establish Vincents reputation in their own way, and Bremmer had
been as successful as she. Bremmer had had a hand in putting early works
by Vincent on the market in 1903, works that Johanna felt actually belonged
to the Van Gogh family. It all had to do with three crates containing paint-
ings, drawings, and watercolors that Vincent van Gogh had entrusted to his
mother in 1885 when he left the southern Dutch province of Brabant. Some
of these works had gone missing, and some had ended up in other hands.46
Bremmer also clashed with her over reproduction rights, to which he had
to appeal on numerous occasions in his work on the magazines Moderne
kunstwerken and Beeldende kunst. Year after year, Bremmer had published
articles and given lectures on Van Gogh, while Jo van Gogh-Bonger had no
one of comparable energy to advertise her brother-in-laws work until 1925.
Only after her death would De la Faille take up the task of writing articles,
giving lectures, and mounting exhibitions. The Van Goghs owned by the
Krllers were kept in The Hague on the Lange Voorhout and could be seen
by anyone who was interested, but the Van Gogh family did not have the fa-
cilities to put their extensive collection of works by Vincent on permanent
display. In addition, Bremmer, as the Krllers advisor, had carefully built
up an important collection. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger and her son had not
collected their Van Goghs but instead had inherited it. Johanna had sold
some Van Goghs to keep her head above water and to make Vincents work
better known.
De la Faille was a newcomer to the Van Gogh firmament, even though
his achievement of being the first to compile a catalogue raisonn was not
to be underestimated. But apparently his goal was to use the Friends orga-
nization a collection-forming organ for the Stedelijk to acquire a posi-
tion comparable to that of Bremmer. Interestingly enough, the Friends did
not invite Engineer Van Gogh to become a board member. His name was
also missing from the imposing list drawn up by the Recommendations
Committee. So it is not entirely inconceivable that one of the Friends un-
spoken goals was to purchase the Engineers inheritance using private and
government money and to give it to the Stedelijk Museum. But they never
got that far.

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Fake Van Goghs
De la Failles magnum opus, the Van Gogh catalogue, was published in
December 1927, but his joy was short-lived. In January 1928, during the
mounting of an exhibition at the Cassirer gallery on the chic Victoriastrae
in Berlin, director Walter Feilchenfeldt (1894-1953) and his associate Grete
Ring (1887-1952) were surprised by four Van Goghs that had been submit-
ted by the Berlin art dealer Otto Wacker (1898-1970).47 The canvases were
entirely at odds with the other paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Wacker
was a newcomer to the art market. In December 1927 he had attracted at-
tention with an exhibition organized by De la Faille of 120 drawings and
watercolors by Vincent taken from prestigious collections, including that
of Engineer Van Gogh. This exhibition was the crown of Wackers success-
ful sale of Van Goghs over the previous two years. De la Faille was also
involved in the organization of the Cassirer exhibition and was asked for
his opinion. After all, he had issued certificates of authenticity for these
canvases as well as many other Wacker Van Goghs in 1926-27 and had in-
cluded them in his recently published catalogue raisonn. Feilchenfeldt,
Ring, and De la Faille quickly agreed, however, that these were not by
Vincent van Gogh. Wacker took the four paintings back.48 De la Faille
asked him about the provenance and was told they were from the collec-
tion of a refugee who had settled in Switzerland, a Russian nobleman who
feared reprisals would be taken against his family and therefore wished to
remain anonymous. De la Faille had already heard the story from Wacker
himself, but Wacker refused to provide him with any further details. It
sounded plausible: thousands of Russian refugees had fled to the capitals
of Europe after the Bolshevik revolution. Moreover, art dealers were not
unaccustomed to maintaining owner anonymity, since competitors could
easily draw from the same source. Owners in turn could require discre-
tion because of inheritance questions, taxes, or security. But there was one
aspect of Wackers story that could be checked. He had told De la Faille
that according to the Russian the paintings, about 30 in all, had been part
of the collection of Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. De la Faille made inquiries
with Engineer Van Gogh. The Engineer wrote him in March 1928 to say
that he had checked his mothers papers, and apparently there had never
been a sale of that number of paintings to any one dealer or collector, let
alone a Russian nobleman.49

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De la Faille was shocked. He did not doubt Wackers good faith and
thought Wacker had been the victim of fraud. How could he himself, the
Van Gogh expert, have been so wrong? The press would later contend that
he and Wacker were in collusion, since he had written certificates of au-
thenticity for the canvases. De la Faille thought the criticism was unde-
served. He argued that every expert received a fee for writing certificates of
authenticity, and that colleagues resented him for charging so little, namely
25 guilders.50 He was also accused of having had a financial interest in the
sale of the Wacker Van Goghs: it was said that he was paid for putting the
paintings on sale. He had issued certificates of authenticity for 22 Wacker
paintings, but the sources do not tell us which transactions he had had a
role in or what his profit or commission had been. According to his own
statement made in 1932, he had sold three Wacker paintings in the Neth-
erlands in early 1928 for 94,000 guilders but had bought them back after
having been convinced that they were spurious.51
Had De la Faille been blinded by the temptation of money or the prospect
of prot or commission? He himself said that initially he had felt some hesi-
tancy about the Wacker paintings when he was working on the catalogue:
As soon as I saw the paintings I felt doubt enter my heart. But as so often
happens, one examines the canvases more closely and analyzes them, and if
they are not blatant forgeries one reasons the doubt away. On top of that, I
did not see the paintings side by side but in succession, and with rather long
intervals in between, so I could not compare them with each other.52 The
idea that his Van Gogh catalogue contained forged works was terrible, he
said, because I had devoted years of my life to that eort. But it was my
duty to make my mistake known. After all, art dealers and purchasers use
books like this as advisors ... and I dont want to be a poor advisor!53
Was his judgment inuenced by commercial considerations? I am inclined
to answer that question with a yes, albeit a weak one, since there are no
good sources to back me up. Needless to say, De la Faille did not know he had
been dealing with forged work. His behavior after January 1928, however, is
unambiguous proof of his desire to rectify the errors he had made concerning
the Wacker Van Goghs and his willingness to retract his judgment.
After the incident at the Cassirer gallery in January 1928, De la Faille
wanted to study all the paintings again and to compare them with undis-
puted Van Goghs from the same period and with similar motifs. His exami-

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nation was of a stylistic nature. Exactly what did he focus on, and did he
really study all the works a second time? We dont know. But we do know
something about how he dealt with one Wacker Van Gogh: Self-Portrait at
the Easel (F 523). Otto Wacker offered the canvas through a front man to
director J. Siedenberg of the Frans Buffa & Zonen gallery of Amsterdam
in February 1928. Siedenberg had misgivings. De la Faille accompanied
Siedenberg on a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in February to
compare the painting with Self-Portrait (F 522), an undisputed Van Gogh
from the collection of Engineer V.W. van Gogh that was in the museum on
loan.54 The canvases were almost identical in terms of composition, yet they
differed greatly in color and execution. The execution of the Wacker paint-
ing was weaker. Siedenberg and De la Faille agreed that the Van Gogh from
the Wacker gallery was not by the master. De la Faille informed Wacker, but
he had already found another buyer for the canvas. So De la Faille contacted
the new owner the conductor and art dealer Joseph Stransky of New York
and told him of his findings. Stransky in turn sold the painting within a
few weeks to the American collector Chester Dale. Whether Dale was also
informed is highly unlikely. Dale would learn of the report in the newspa-
pers at the end of November.55
De la Faille spent the following months studying the Van Goghs of Otto
Wacker, some of which had found other owners. After May he gradually be-
came convinced that not just a few but all of Wackers paintings were fakes,
and he turned down an invitation to discuss the matter in November 1928
during the Van Gogh exhibition at the Kastner Gesellschaft in Hannover.
The management was going to show seven Wacker paintings among a group
of undisputed paintings by Vincent. De la Faille was now sure of what he
was doing, and he regarded any discussion as superfluous: the paintings
were fakes.56 After a few days, the director of the Gesellschaft seconded his
opinion: the Wacker Van Goghs had not been able to withstand comparison
with the genuine Van Goghs. All seven were unmistakable forgeries.57

De la Faille was determined to keep the matter under wraps. He decided to
follow the unwritten law of the art trade: when a work of art is being sold
whose spuriousness is incontestable, seller and buyer will observe all neces-

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. Self-Portrait at the Easel (F ),
x cm. National Gallery of Art,

. Certicate of authenticity by
De la Faille on the back of a
photograph of Self-Portrait at the

The undersigned declares that he has

examined the painting reproduced on
the opposite side, centimeters high
and . centimeters wide. He regards
it as a genuine and characteristic work
by Vincent van Gogh, painted in
during his stay in Arles. It will be
described and included in his catalogue
raisonn on the masters work.
Berlin, July , , J.B. de la Faille

But in February De la Faille

judged it a forgery.


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sary discretion. The seller will take the work back and compensate the buyer
for any loss. The purpose of this confidentiality is to safeguard the reputa-
tions of both seller and buyer. While the rule is exemplary in its simplicity,
there are factors that can sap the rule of all its power, and the Wacker Van
Gogh case had them in spades. The number of persons and official bodies
that had anything to do with the canvases only increased as 1928 drew to a
close. By November, more than half of the 30 paintings had passed through
the hands of dozens of art dealers and private collectors. A few dealers
had been warned by De la Faille and had sold the paintings back, but not
all of them succeeded in recovering the damage wrought by Otto Wacker.
The resulting discontent was difficult to hide. In addition, a wide range of
people had been consulted: art experts, museum directors, restorers, paint-
ers, art historians, and critics, not to mention the exhibition in the Kestner
Gesellschaft and subsequent discussion. De la Faille made an arrangement
with his publisher whereby owners of the catalogue which would have
numbered in the dozens by the end of November would be sent a Suppl-
ment containing a list of the fake Wacker paintings. He also informed his
business relations in the German and Dutch art world of his plan. So De la
Failles effort to keep the matter quiet was doomed to failure.

. Another new Van Gogh. Cartoon

by Piet van der Hem in De Haagsche Post,
December , . An expert touts the
authenticity of a self-portrait of Vincent
van Gogh with headphones and radio.

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The German press had the scoop on the Wacker paintings. On 28 No-
vember 1928, it was front-page news: Famous Van Gogh paintings are
fakes, Huge discovery of forged paintings, Spurious Van Goghs, etc.58
The Dutch newspapers followed a day later. They announced that De la
Failles Supplment listing all 30 fake Van Goghs from the Otto Wacker
gallery would appear within a week. Wacker threatened to take legal steps
to prevent publication and said he would prosecute De la Faille for libel
if necessary. It never went beyond a threat, but it was enough to alert the
journalists. And there was plenty to write about. The amount of money in-
volved was considerable; prices circulating in the press ranged from 25,000
to 75,000 Reichsmark per painting. The Berlin police became involved and
began holding interrogations in Germany and the Netherlands, and this
was before any party had filed a single complaint against Wacker. It all
had to do with dissension in the art world. One person insisted that all the
paintings were fakes while another said they were all genuine, and yet an-
other that some were genuine and some were fake, which meant there was
no agreement over the number and identity of the contested works. There
were experts who revised an opinion that they had previously announced
with staunch conviction: the German Van Gogh expert Julius Meier-Grfe
(1867-1935) who, like De la Faille, had been issuing certificates of authen-
ticity for Wacker Van Goghs since 1926, now began to waver. The German
art dealers were split. A few bought back the paintings they had sold. One
of them was the art dealer Mathiessen, who lost a total of 150,000 marks.
The dealer Hugo Perls, on the other hand, had also sold Wacker Van Goghs
and would not hear of buying them back. Then there was the legal action:
shortly before Christmas, Mathiessen instigated civil proceedings against
Wacker. A female buyer sued the Hugo Perls gallery because Perls did not
think he was obliged to take back any of the paintings. There was the se-
crecy about the former Russian owner. Some thought it was a credible story,
others a dubious alibi. Commenting on one particular painting, Engineer
Van Gogh told a journalist from De Telegraaf he had never seen it at his
mothers and there was no indication in any of her files that she had ever
sold anything to Russians.59 In short, the Dutch and German morning and
evening editions had much to report on in December 1928.


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and . Bilder, angeblich von Van Gogh. Owners and dealers found
themselves in dicult straits. The press here Kunst und Knstler published
reproductions of the contested paintings.

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The art pope
The Supplment was published on 10 December 1928. De la Failles rejection
was impressive in its brevity; he listed 30 paintings, and only by number. But
De Telegraaf and the NRC looked up the titles and owners, published the
entire list and added dozens of photos of the canvases.60 Other newspapers
and magazines followed suit, with photos and commentary.61 De la Faille
let himself in for a flood of condemnation. The Netherlands Art Buyers
Association, founded in 1919 to settle disputes among dealers and between
dealers and the public, convened an emergency meeting without delay and
denounced both the publication and its author. It let the press know that
the work on Vincent van Gogh by J.B. de la Faille is regarded only as an
enumeration of the works attributed to him, and the makers personal find-
ings are no guarantee of its competence.62 There were some who expressed
the opposite opinion, however, such as the art dealer Cassirer: He [De la
Faille] is the most authoritative expert in the field of Van Gogh canvases,
so his certificates of authenticity are decisive.63 Others had similar positive
things to say. But Bremmers reaction was prompt and resolute: some of the
Wacker Van Goghs were forgeries and others were definitely from Vincents
hand. Which was which, he didnt say. [De la Faille] is not capable of judg-
ing the authenticity of a painting by Vincent van Gogh, Bremmer wrote.
If he were, he would not have revised his opinion of 30 paintings all at the
same time, nor would he have had to ask for my insight again and again on
the question of authenticity while working on his catalogue. Bremmer did
not deny the value of his contribution as author of the Van Gogh catalogue,
but [...] putting together a catalogue like this does not make one an art
expert. Trying to prove the authenticity of a work of art by tracing its prov-
enance is a job for a detective. An art expert ought to know whether a work
is genuine or not by looking at the work itself, without knowing anything
about its provenance.64 Bremmer left no doubt as to who had the eye and
who did not. De la Faille, he said, was completely unqualified.65 He re-
peated his point of view in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of 10 December,
which the NRC reprinted in translation on 11 December.66
In response, De la Faille, while expressing his respect, played down the
contribution Bremmer had made in the creation of the catalogue and dis-
tanced himself: I have always regarded Mr. Bremmer as an authority on
Van Gogh, but he does not have a monopoly on the subject.67 This reply

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was not enough to soften his opponents heart: Bremmer an authority
one among others? Bremmer was the art pope, and he would not allow
anyone to topple the tiara from his head. In a revealing turn of events,
Bremmers position was confirmed in December 1928 by several people who
began purchasing Wacker Van Goghs. De la Failles Supplment came out
on 10 December, but in what can only be seen as an acknowledgement of
authority, Willem Scherjon, publisher of Bremmers magazine Beeldende
Kunst, bought a Wacker Van Gogh on 12 December at Bremmers advice
for 11,500 guilders: F 639, La route dans les Alpilles (henceforth to be re-
ferred to as Two Poplars).68 On 17 December, the Krllers bought La mer
Saintes-Maries (henceforth Seascape) on Bremmers recommendation via
the dAudretsch gallery in The Hague for 18,000 guilders.69 Krller-Mller
wanted to buy two more F 614, Des Cyprs (henceforth Cypresses), and
F 385, Portrait de lui-mme (henceforth Self-Portrait) but she thought the
prices were too high.70 She told an associate in Berlin that buying these
canvases was intended as an act of support for Bremmers opinion that some
of the works regarded as false by De la Faille were quite genuine: anyone
who believed in Bremmer put his money where his mouth was. She also saw
this affair as an opportunity to buy Van Goghs at a low price and thought
Bremmer should wait with his opinion on the authenticity of the Wacker
Van Goghs. At the moment these were scarcely marketable, she wrote, so
she could acquire them for very little. If Bremmer were to pronounce judg-
ment, she believed the price would undoubtedly go up.71
Eight months earlier, both Krller-Mller and Bremmer had turned down
membership in the organization Friends of Vincent Van Gogh, founded by
De la Faille: she with the argument that there were enough works by Vin-
cent in Dutch collections, and he that it would be better to buy works by
living Dutch artists. Now Bremmer, like Krller-Mller, overruled his own
admonition. To be consistent, he himself bought a contested Van Gogh
for 8,000 guilders: F 625bis, Les meules au lever de la lune (henceforth Hay-
stacks). The purchases made by Scherjon, Krller-Mller, and Bremmer
show how much they were intended as an action to discredit De la Faille as
a Van Gogh expert.
A copy that has been preserved of the Haystacks purchase agreement
between Wacker and Bremmer, dated January 1929, offers an intriguing
glimpse into Bremmers interests. It was always very important for him to

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conceal his own financial interest in the works of art he recommended, but
according to the agreement, both Wacker and Bremmer were free to sell the
painting to any third party within a two-year period ending 31 December
1930.72 Later Bremmer would explain that the money was intended as a
loan to Wacker.73 There was another dimension to this purchase, however,
which will be revealed in the next chapter. The fact remains that Bremmer
bought a Wacker Van Gogh for much less than Scherjon and Krller-Mller
had paid for Two Poplars and Seascape. From Bremmers point of view (he
believed Haystacks was definitely a genuine Van Gogh) he actually had not
taken any risks. Indeed, if Wacker were unable to pay back the loan, the
canvas could be resold at a profit. Here Bremmer was revealing himself not
only as a collector but also as a dealer. It was an aspect of his professional
conduct that would not be discussed openly in the newspapers until many
years later, in 1937.
After 10 December 1928, Bremmer would no longer condescend to refute
De la Faille in writing. In his magazine Beeldende Kunst he wrote positive
pieces about Seascape (The splendor of this work lies in its serenity74) and
Two Poplars without any mention of his opponents arguments, and he left
it at that.75 He was conspicuously absent from the polemics and discussions
on the Van Goghs of the Wacker gallery, but he did not stand aloof: the
commercial and idealistic interests were too big for that, and interference
was necessary. He acted behind the scenes, not so much as an organizer
but as the instigator of the rising struggle in the Netherlands against De la
Faille. Others took center stage, defending Bremmers views and attempting
to preserve and expand his authority. It happened with his own encourage-
ment but, probably more often, it also happened without his having to urge
anyone to defend the authenticity of the Wacker Van Goghs. They acted
almost the way a zealot serves the pope or a courtier his prince: not at his
order but in his spirit.

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2 True colors

At the time of writing the beginning of the twenty-first century there

isnt a single expert who is willing to speak out in defense of art dealer Otto
Wackers Van Gogh paintings. The generally accepted opinion is that they
are all fakes and that most of them were made by the same person, most
probably Ottos brother, the painter and restorer Leonhard Heinrich Wacker
(born 1895). For a good part of the twentieth century, however, some of
these paintings managed to pass for works by Vincent van Gogh, much to
the astonishment of chroniclers of the Wacker affair. They point out the
questionable aspects of Otto Wackers career: earlier charges of dealing in
forged paintings, the art collection of a Russian nobleman who was never
identified, an unfinished Van Gogh found by the police in Leonhards
studio, and other incriminating evidence. Why did dealers and experts fail
to heed these warnings? What made them take a chance on a man like this?
The only possible answer, the chroniclers claim, is that they were corrupt,
incompetent, or gullible. Seen from this perspective, the account of the
affair is a history of wisdom by hindsight. The chronicler knows how the
battle is going to end, sees the role that people and objects have played, and
writes about how they were swept along by the current of the times. If only
they had been more attentive, they never would have become such willing
prey to Wackers deception! This kind of chronicler is a prophet of the past.
Contradicting this theory that they all acted exclusively out of either
corrupt or noble motives and that the Wacker brothers would have been
easy to unmask are scores of other intriguing aspects to the Wacker affair.
Until January 1928, no one openly expressed any misgivings about Otto
Wackers Van Goghs. It is important to note that nothing about the dark
side of his wheelings and dealings ever appeared in the newspapers. The
discovery of four of his fake Van Goghs at the Cassirer gallery was kept from

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the public eye. A few weeks later in February and March 1928 a sales
exhibition was held at art dealer M. Goldschmidts Berlin branch at which
at least seven of the nine Van Goghs were from Otto Wacker.1 In July of that
year, Wacker sold a drawing by Van Gogh to the Nationalgalerie in Berlin
for 9,000 reichsmarks. In Wackers correspondence with this museum, not
a word about forgeries is mentioned.2 If malicious stories about Wacker had
been making the rounds in the German art world, his colleagues would
have dismissed them as gossip and slander. After all, every dealer has had
the experience of making a bad buy and knows how easily a presumed
golden purchase can turn into a white elephant. If a dealer like Wacker had
found himself entangled in an unfortunate transaction, none of his col-
leagues would have cried foul.
So the unsympathetic reports that were heard about Otto Wacker start-
ing on 28 November 1928 smack strongly of ex post facto assessments: once
the affair surrounding the fake Van Goghs hit the newspapers, many people
actually appeared to have known all along that Wacker was a crook and that
his merchandise was of dubious content. It is not very likely, however, that
they entertained such views in earlier years, since until the summer of 1928
Wacker was still known as someone who had a way with people. The fact
that so many prominent dealers and collectors, plus the Nationalgalerie,
agreed to do business with him suggests as much. When the falsity of a
few of his Van Goghs was pointed out to him in early 1928, he showed no
indignation toward his critics. During all those years, and even until long
after 1928, De la Faille, Meier-Graefe, and others insisted that he had al-
ways treated them properly. Clearly, Wacker played his role as a bona fide
dealer with flair. And topping it all off is the fact that dealers and collectors
were hungry for works by Vincent van Gogh. This made them less criti-
cal toward the Van Goghs that Wacker was offering: stylistic peculiarities,
material deficiencies, and ambiguities regarding their provenance were all
shrugged off. In the world of art sales, the certificates of authenticity issued
by experts such as Bremmer, De la Faille, Meier-Graefe, and others were the
deciding factor.
This chapter deals with the dispute over the authenticity of the Wacker
Van Goghs in Germany in 1928 and 1929. We have seen how the controversy
played out in the Netherlands and Germany in 1928, so some overlapping
of dates and events is to be expected. The dispute in Germany does feature

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the same elements: great financial loss and damaged reputations. And here,
too, the focus is on acquiring authority, maintaining it, expanding it, and
undermining it. But the persons and institutions are different. The main
difference is that Otto Wackers Van Goghs ended up in a drama where art
that of Van Gogh in particular played a role that is difficult to imagine or
understand today. The question of the fake Van Goghs was pushed along by
a complex conflict of interests in the German art world, following a course
quite different from that in the Netherlands. In this drama, the art dealer
Otto Wacker, art critic Julius Meier-Graefe, and museum director Ludwig
Justi all occupied places of prominence.

The German spirit

From the late nineteenth century onward, a host of artists, dealers, col-
lectors, and critics in Germany were involved in bringing Vincents work
to the attention of the art-loving public, but they met with a great deal of
resistance. Germany was strictly divided about the significance of art. There
were those who felt that arts function was purely aesthetic. Others insisted
that the purpose of art was at least closely allied with if not identical to
pedagogical, moral, philosophical, religious, racial, or political goals. 3 For
many in Germany, the love of art was the test of a persons convictions and
a barometer of the cultures superiority, ascendance, or downfall or, in
the idiom of the age: of the Geist, the spirit. One person might argue that
Van Gogh had destroyed French art, while another would contend that he
had brought it to untold heights. Van Gogh was variously regarded as a
northerner, a Frenchman, a Fleming, and a Teuton. There were those who
did not know where his roots lay, but based on an assumption of his eth-
nic origins they did not hesitate to ascribe to Vincent characteristics that
were seen as either praiseworthy or reprehensible, as part of Germanys
Geist or a challenge against it. This debate stems from the centuries-old
misconception that the beautiful and the good are essentially interchange-
able. It is beyond the scope of this book to report on the diversity of views
that were held in Germany concerning the non-autonomous aesthetic of
the works of Van Gogh, 4 but his life and work became part of the disputes
that had arisen over the use of art to strengthen the German national con-

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Kaiser Wilhelm II believed that the purpose of art was to cultivate citi-
zenship: it should express loyalty to the state, pride, power, and self-confi-
dence. At the unveiling of a series of statues of all the Brandenburg princes
in 1901, he uttered the memorable words: An art that disregards the laws
and limits that I have defined is no longer art.5 The work of the Impres-
sionists and Post-Impressionists, which included Van Gogh, violated this
commandment. It was too free, cursory, weak, superficial in short, it was
too French. In the eyes of an influential conservative elite, modern French
art was an expression of republicanism and therefore an undermining of
the German social structure, with the monarchy at the top. In the same
year, Wilhelm II derisively referred to a Czanne exhibition at the Cassirer
gallery in Berlin as sewer art from Paris. He watched with dismay as the
Knigliche Nationalgalerie in Berlin showed and collected works by Degas,
Renoir, and Manet. The director of the museum, Hugo von Tschudi (1851-
1911), had chosen to be led not by political but by aesthetic criteria. For the
conservatives, the presence of the French Impressionists in the National-
galerie, completed in 1876 in imperial, classical style, was an outrage. Was

. The Nationalgalerie in
Berlin, opened in . For
the conservative elite, the
motto Der Deutschen Kunst
meant that modern French
art, which they insisted also
included Van Gogh, need not
be shown. The year refers
to the German victory over

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the inscription over the entrance to the museum Der Deutschen Kunst
(German Art) totally meaningless? When von Tschudi commissioned six
French paintings in 1909 for 25,000 marks, Wilhelm II blocked the pur-
chase before the financial arrangements were completed. The sale was called
off and von Tschudi was forced to step down.6 There were other German
museums and collectors who attached little importance to the views of the
Kaiser, however, and von Tschudi quickly found employment as the direc-
tor of the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, where he was able to show off his
enthusiasm for modern French art once again.
It was not only museums beyond the immediate reach of the Kaiser that
chose to go their own way; collectors and critics did, too. Van Goghs art
gained ground all over Germany. In the first twenty-five years of the twen-
tieth century alone, thirty-seven exhibitions of his work were organized
and about fifteen percent of his paintings ended up with German owners.
This is an extraordinary outcome in view of the fact that at the end of the
nineteenth century almost all of Van Goghs works were in Dutch or French
hands. But until the outbreak of World War II, Van Goghs life and work
would continue to be the subject of controversy. There were artists, critics,
dealers, museums, and collectors who rejected Van Gogh during those years
as well as those who embraced him. One of the latter was the art critic Julius

In October 1927, when De la Failles exhibition of Van Gogh drawings
from the gallery of Otto Wacker held its opening, Meier-Graefe com-
mented with a sigh, Every week Berlin is one art dealer richer. 7 It all
had to do with the astounding economic growth that had taken place in
Germany over the preceding years: the Golden Twenties. Unemployment
had practically disappeared, industry had been modernized, the business
community was in full swing, and wages had skyrocketed. All this could
be felt in the art world. Art lovers had money in abundance and there was
a demand for works by modern masters. Wacker was one of the many to
profit from this turbulent artistic and economic climate. Over the previ-
ous two years he had had no trouble putting drawings and paintings by
Vincent van Gogh on the market, and with the profits he had been able


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. Julius Meier-Graefe in around .
The rst in Germany to own a painting
by Van Gogh, he published a great deal
about his life and work and provided the
Van Goghs being sold at Kunsthandel
Otto Wacker with certicates of

to move from his shop on the unassuming Zimmerstrae to a well-placed

establishment on the Viktoriastrae, right near the Potsdamer Platz and
amidst the citys well-known art dealers: Cassirer, Thannhauser, Matthie-
sen, and others.
Wacker was able to benefit from the reputation of the sixty-year-old
Meier-Graefe, who granted certificates of authenticity to twenty-five of his
Van Goghs.8 Meier-Graefes assessment was as sought-after by dealers and
collectors in Germany as that of De la Faille, and he, too, was held to be a
Van Gogh authority of stature. Meier-Graefe had immediately recognized
the importance of Van Gogh for modern art. He was the first in Germany
to purchase his work, starting in 1893, and he wrote about him many times.
In his three-volume Die Entwicklungsgeschichte der modernen Kunst (1904)
and Impressionisten (1907), Van Gogh occupies a key position. His Vincent
van Gogh of 1910 was the first successful biography of the artist, and his
Vincent: Der Roman eines Gottsuchers of 1921 underwent many reprints and
was translated into English and French. By 1928, Meier-Graefe was the Van
Gogh authority in the German art world.9
When Meier-Graefe returned to Berlin in July 1928 after a long stay in
the United States, Cassirer informed him of De la Failles plan to issue a
Supplment of the fake Van Goghs. Meier-Graefe became alarmed and wrote

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to De la Faille on 15 August asking him not to act too hastily. He wanted to
examine the questionable canvases one more time himself.
Meier-Graefe felt sorry for Wacker. He believed the art dealer had been
duped: it was almost certain that Wacker would never be able to get rid of
his dearly acquired merchandise, making him sadly just one more vic-
tim of art world swindlers. Meier-Graefe managed to convince Wacker that
the anonymity of the Russian owner would have to be abandoned, and that
a joint visit to the Russian would provide more clarity about the provenance
of the canvases. Wacker agreed to arrange a meeting. In September 1928 he
claimed to have traveled to Switzerland, but he returned a few days later
with a disappointing announcement: a meeting was out of the question
until further notice. The Russian appeared to have left unexpectedly for a
long stay in faraway Egypt.10 Meier-Graefe accepted Wackers story.
In November, Meier-Graefe asked the Engineer whether his mother had
ever sold the questionable paintings to a Russian family as Otto Wacker al-
leged, and he received the same answer that De la Faille had been given to the
same question in March: the canvases did not originate from the Van Gogh
family.11 This failed to convince Meier-Graefe, and in December he once again
urged Wacker to arrange for a joint visit to the Russian in Switzerland, this
time in the company of a police investigator. Wacker said he would comply,
but ultimately no journey to Switzerland would ever be undertaken.

How did Otto Wacker take the criticism of his merchandise in 1928? He
seemed to make light of the incident of the four fake Van Goghs at the
Cassirer gallery in January 1928. He did not dispute the judgment of De la
Faille, Ring, and Feilchenfeldt, and he gave the paintings back. In the first
half of that year he was still able to sell his Van Goghs for high prices to
dealers and collectors in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States,
but that summer, cracks began to appear on the surface of his operation.
De la Faille informed art dealers of his revised judgment, and most of them
took back the canvases from the duped collectors, offered them to Wacker,
and demanded a refund.
When the art world learned of De la Failles plan to dismiss all the Wack-
er Van Goghs as fakes in a Supplment to be published at the end of 1928,


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Meier-Graefe swung into action. He leaked the news to the German press,
and in a halfhearted attempt to save his own reputation as a Van Gogh ex-
pert he wrote that he and De la Faille were planning on conducting a joint
investigation. He regarded De la Failles revision as ill-founded and thought
his actions were rash and harmful to many of those involved. He accused
him of being headstrong: De la Failles views are so beyond the pale that I
would sooner turn my soul over to the devil.12 Meier-Graefe had not been
able to re-examine all the canvases, the newspapers wrote, but unlike De la
Faille he regarded most of them one newspaper said eighty percent as
authentic. In November 1928, however, it became clear that others in Ger-
many were challenging Meier-Graefes assessment. One of them was the
director of the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover, who issued a statement on
the spuriousness of seven Wacker Van Goghs that had been shown to him.
Wackers defense of his business had begun to meet with more and more
resistance in Germany. He saw that almost all the German art dealers had
put their trust in De la Failles judgment, and he must have realized that ex-
perts like Meier-Graefe and Hans Rosenhagen (1858-1943) carried too little
weight. By the end of November the attempt to defend the authenticity of
the Wacker Van Goghs seemed all but lost, until Otto Wacker delivered a
masterstroke to turn the tide.

On 30 November 1928, Otto Wacker, accompanied by his brother Leon-
hard, paid a hasty visit to Bremmer in The Hague, bringing three paintings
with him. It was not Ottos first meeting with Bremmer. Seven months
earlier, Bremmer had provided Self-Portrait at the Easel (F 523) with a cer-
tificate of authenticity after De la Faille had informed art dealer Joseph
Stransky of his decision to revoke his judgment of the canvas, and before
Stransky had sold it (with Bremmers certificate) in May 1928. Wacker knew
the way Bremmer worked: the unquestioning emotion he displayed when
he beheld a work of art and his disparaging attitude towards academic art
study. Otto Wacker would not have to expect any troublesome questions
from him about the provenance of the Van Goghs. Moreover, he was con-
vinced that Bremmer wielded enormous authority among Dutch dealers
and collectors. Wacker presented himself as a passionate dealer, but unin-

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formed with regard to Van Gogh. Would Bremmer, as a leading expert, be
so kind as to tell him whether these canvases were from Vincents hand or
not? Wacker had pushed the right button. This was just the attitude that
Bremmer appreciated: the questioner had undertaken a long train journey
from Berlin to seek his advice, acknowledged his authority without hesita-
tion, appealed to his immense knowledge of art, and was a pupil in search
of enlightenment. In a later statement about Otto Wacker, Bremmer would
say, Wacker possesses a natural artistic sense, to a much stronger degree
than in most people.13 A journalist from De Telegraaf was invited to attend
the Wacker brothers visit to Bremmer and wrote, So far Mr. Bremmer has
seen nine of the paintings in question and has declared seven of them to be
absolutely authentic. He arranged to see three paintings in his home, and
one of them, with cypresses, he declared to be not only authentic but an
uncommonly beautiful example of Van Goghs art, and he used it in a lesson
by way of demonstration.14
The theory that the Wacker Van Goghs consisted of a group of forged
works accumulated around a core of genuine Van Goghs would become the
new truth in the Dutch art world, thanks to Bremmers intellectual clout.
Afterward, Wacker would sing the praises of Bremmers authority as a Van
Gogh expert to anyone who would listen. The judgment of the recalcitrant
De la Faille was hardly worth considering, or as Wacker would write to
Scherjon, Mr. Bremmer has never yet been mistaken in his assessment of
the paintings of Van Gogh, which raises Bremmer far above the other Van
Gogh experts.15
Bremmer was convinced that Wacker was the victim of a smear campaign
carried out by jealous art dealers, and he set out to protect him. As we
saw, in December he began throwing his weight around as an art expert in
his dealings with Scherjon and Krller-Mller in order to sell Wacker Van
Goghs, and he himself drew up a contract with Otto Wacker for the sale of
Haystacks (F 625bis).

Bremmers protective hand could not shield Wacker from the formidable
blow to his reputation brought on by the newspaper reports of De la Failles
Supplment. Everything Wacker said and did was held up to the light. Po-


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lice investigator Eulzen questioned Wacker on Saturday, 1 December 1928,
upon his return to Berlin after visiting Bremmer in The Hague. How did
the paintings come into his possession, who was the Russian collector,
and where was this person staying so the police could speak with him?
Wackers answer: to preserve the Russians safety I have destroyed all cor-
respondence; I refuse to take part in an interview with him in the company
of a Berlin investigator; I deem all police interference unnecessary, since
reputable experts have acknowledged the authenticity of the Van Goghs;
I am considering taking legal action against De la Faille. Het Volk wrote,
At the end of the interrogation, the inspector from the criminal inves-
tigation division told the art dealer that he did not believe a word of his
statement and that he was only letting him go because he had no right to
arrest him due to lack of evidence.16 In a newspaper statement a few weeks
later, Wackers lawyer Ivan Goldschmidt (no relation to the art dealer of
the same name) made him out to be a hero: we should be praising him for
wanting to protect the unknown Russian collector and his family from a
regime that threatens its subjects with death for the least little infraction.
Wacker was a victim of duty: he had promised the Russian on his word of
honor that he would not divulge his identity, and despite all the pressure
he was remaining loyal to his promise.17 Honor and loyal were salutary
words in those days.
Little by little, Wackers alibi was steadily undermined by facts published
in the newspapers during the first weeks of 1929. On 18 January 1929, the
Vossische Zeitung wrote that six or seven years earlier he had attracted at-
tention by dealing in forged paintings that had supposedly been made by
Heinrich Wilhelm Trbner ( 1917); during the same period he had been
accused of selling forged paintings by Arnold Bcklin ( 1901) and Franz
von Stuck ( 1928).18 Then came the Frankfurter Zeitung article of 30 Janu-
ary 1929. The Moscow correspondent had spoken with the director of the
Museum of Modern Art in Moscow and the head of the Visual Arts Divi-
sion of the Peoples Commission for Art Affairs, and they had assured him
that none of the Wacker Van Goghs had ever been in Russia: Russia had
only a small number of art centers, and no private collections escaped the
knowledge of art historians.19 Voices in the German art world insisted that
Wacker had been the victim of a Russian con man who owned a small core
of genuine Van Goghs, around which he had commissioned a larger col-

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lection of forgeries. When the Nationalgalerie in Berlin subjected a few
Wacker Van Goghs to a stylistic and technical examination, it became clear
beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of the paintings were fakes.

Ludwig Justi
In 1928, Ludwig Justi, who had a doctorate in art history, was unquestion-
ably the most influential museum director in Germany. In 1909 he succeed-
ed Hugo von Tschudi as the director of the Knigliche Nationalgalerie, the
museum that was renamed the Staatliche Nationalgalerie a few months after
the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918. Justi was not only one of the
most important figures in the German art world but also one of the most
controversial. He believed that a museums task was to preserve the old and
recognize the new. It should exhibit and collect the art that has withstood
the selection process of the ages, but it should do the same for contempo-
rary art. He also felt that it was the museums job to familiarize the greater
public with this art by means of lectures, tours, and publications. Justis
ideas were by no means commonplace in the 1910s and 20s, and they made
him many enemies in conservative circles. While these enemies agreed with
Justi that the museum should show German art, they despised his prefer-

. Ludwig Justi in around .

ludwig justi

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ence for the Expressionistic works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beck-
mann, August Macke, and others. So his attitude earned him both friends
and enemies among lovers of contemporary art.
Justis enemies reproached him for failing to devote any attention in
the Nationalgalerie to Georg Grosz and the Dadaists and for being far too
late with his decision to hold an exhibition of the Constructivists. Among
the advocates of modern art there were critics, such as Meier-Graefe, who
found him modish and accused him of refusing to acknowledge the value
of the Impressionists. It is true that Justi had little affinity for painters like
douard Manet ( 1883), Edgar Degas ( 1917), and Auguste Renoir (
1919), though he did recognize their artistic value. Impressionism for him
was a typical French form of artistic expression in which the mere surface
of things was depicted. It was not in keeping with the German Geist, which
he believed penetrated their essence. This judgment earned him the en-
mity of Max Liebermann (1847-1935), whose paintings clearly showed the
influence of the French Impressionists and who, with Meier-Graefe and
von Tschudi, worked hard to make their work better known in Germany.
Liebermann had owned a Van Gogh, but he did not think very highly of
the man as an artist: Van Gogh had suffered a great deal, but his suffering

17. Max Liebermann in 1904.

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had made him incapable of completing a single painting or drawing as a
work of art.20
Justis entanglements were not limited to conflicts of ideals. He also dis-
agreed with Liebermann over matters of a commercial and political nature.
The painter was dissatisfied with the acquisitions of the Nationalgalerie.
Liebermann saw too few of his own preferences among them and thought
that the German artists he patronized were not getting the place of honor in
the Nationalgalerie that they deserved. Liebermann was a critic of stature.
He was one of the most successful painters in Germany, he was rich, and
he lived in a stately villa right next to the Brandenburger Tor (his direc-
tions to visitors: When you enter Berlin, turn left.). His works were in
great demand; dealers and collectors more or less tore the paintings from
his hands. He held countless positions in the art world. In 1903 he became
the chairman of the Deutscher Knstlerbund, which had been founded to
withstand the pernicious effect of Wilhelm II on the arts. He was one of
the luminaries of the Berliner Secession, a group of artists who had risen
up in reaction to the dominance of academic art in the Prussian state, but
he turned against them in 1911 because they agreed to allow Expressionism,
a painting style he abhorred, to be shown in the exhibitions. He can right-
fully be called a Painter Prince. But it was not until 1920 that he became
president of the prestigious Preuische Akademie der Knste, a function
that many thought he should have been given much earlier in view of his
achievements and capacities. He could not hold such a position under the
Kaiser, however, for Liebermann was a Jew.21 The dissension between Justi
and Liebermann was probably not based on anti-Semitism but on compet-
ing artistic views. Justi wanted to limit the domination of Liebermann and
his cohorts in the Nationalgaleries acquisition and collection policy. For
his part, Liebermann would have seen in Justi a representative of the ancien
rgime.22 Indeed, Justi had been appointed by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1909, and
as successor to von Tschudi he was expected to keep the inuences of Im-
pressionism (i.e. modern French inuences) in the Nationalgalerie in check.
Reading the criticisms and polemical writings that were making the
rounds in the German art world during those years is a strange experience.
Discussing differences in taste and opinion on a professional level seems
to have been utterly foreign to them. One example: Karl Scheffler, an in-
fluential critic of Justis museum policy, published a much talked-about

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brochure in 1921 called Der Berliner Museumskrieg (The Berlin Museum
War).23 The title alone was bad enough, scarcely three years after the most
gruesome war that had ever been fought in Europe! The writer condemned
Wilhelm IIs improper use of art (among other things), protested against
the overcrowded museum walls so fashionable at the time, expressed his
great appreciation for the Impressionists, and deplored the prominence
given to the Expressionists. So far so good. But all this went hand in hand
with jeers and ad hominem arguments, and ended with a demand for Justis
dismissal. What also makes reading these pieces so unsettling is our current
knowledge that many in the German art world who opposed each other so
vigorously in 1933 later became victims of the Nazis.
Personal factors probably played a role as well. A close co-worker de-
scribed Justi as someone who was friendly, convivial, and witty, but who
could also be arrogant and hurtful.24 It is tempting to see a correlation
between personal characteristics and the thoroughly hostile attitudes in the
German art world. Whatever the case may have been, by 1928 Justi had a
career behind him that was marked by highly volatile conflicts. He had suc-
cessfully managed to serve the interests of the museum under a blinkered
and domineering Kaiser, and he had also been successful in charting an
independent course for contemporary art after 1918. He paid a high price
for these efforts, but perhaps we should try to see it as someone from that
period might have seen it, when inflated, authoritarian verbal exchanges
were regarded as normal. For Justi, the words of the Dutch sociologist S.R.
Steinmetz seem especially apt: A good enemy is one of the best gifts of the
gods keeping in mind that Justi had not one but a great many enemies.

In 1928 an agreement was reached between Justi and Mrs. Krller-Mller:
her Van Gogh collection would be shown in the former Kronprinzenpalais,
which Justi had put to use in 1921 as an annex of the Nationalgalerie. Now
that Justi was no longer serving a Kaiser who insisted on seeing the nation
glorified in academic, romantic paintings but was working under a minis-
ter who granted him more freedom, he could implement his museological
ideas. What he had in mind was to reserve the entire palace for contempo-
rary art. It was a revolutionary plan. Until then, modern art had been some-

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thing for private collectors, art salons, and art dealers. There were museums
that showed the occasional example of contemporary art beside works by
respected old masters, but a state institution totally devoted to modern art
was unique.
In December, news of De la Failles Supplment on the forged Van Goghs
was in all the papers, and Justi saw the Van Gogh exhibition as a perfect
opportunity to shed more light on the subject. His plan was to display the
dubious paintings of art dealer Otto Wacker beside the 143 Van Goghs of
Krller-Mller, a collection whose authenticity was openly questioned by
no one. He asked a few owners of Wacker Van Goghs if they would be will-
ing to give their paintings to the Nationalgalerie on loan for the duration
of the exhibition so that experts and laymen might be able to form their
own opinions about the objects themselves.25 Justi must have realized that
all the commotion had frightened the owners off. Since early December, the

. The Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin. Here the Van Goghs from the collection of
Helene Krller-Mller were shown in early . The Berlin police would not allow
her forged Van Gogh Seascape (F ) to be shown in the museum proper, but she
managed to have this restriction reversed.

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uproar in the press and statements by De la Faille and the director of the
Kestner Gesellschaft had damaged their reputations and inflicted financial
loss. The owners had nothing to gain from complying with Justis request.
On the contrary, there was a real possibility that he, the director of a lead-
ing museum, might side with the critics, too. Then the damage would be
Justi tried to reassure the owners he wrote that as far as he was con-
cerned, it was by no means certain that De la Faille was correct but to
no avail. On 21 December 1928, when the Prussian Minister of Education
and Culture, Carl Heinrich Becker, opened the Krller-Mller exhibition
(which occupied the upper floor of the Kronprinzenpalais), only one collec-
tor, Mrs. E. Wolff of Hamburg, had sent in her Wacker Van Gogh: Cypresses
(F 616). But when the art dealer Matthiesen officially filed charges against
Kunsthandel Otto Wacker on behalf of the Society of German Art and An-
tique Dealers on 22 December, the question of authentic or fake began to
gain momentum.26 Now the police had the authority to carry out extensive
house searches of any suspected persons in order to seize the paintings and
accounting books of the art dealer Otto Wacker and to question any in-
volved persons in Germany and the Netherlands. It also meant that duped
German dealers who had supported the charge through their professional
society would now be handing over dubious Van Goghs for examination.
If Wacker were convicted, it would increase the chance that those who had
not been able to recover their money would finally get satisfaction.

Crass forgeries
By 3 January 1929, Justi had eight Wacker Van Goghs hanging in the Kron-
prinzenpalais, but not among the Van Goghs of Helene Krller-Mller,
as he had hoped. The police had prohibited him from hanging the con-
troversial paintings in the museum proper because they were to be used
as evidence if Otto Wacker were ever taken to court on charges of fraud.
Displaying them could stir up public sentiment, thereby undermining the
impartiality of the legal proceedings. So Justi hung them in his study, where
a select number of persons could see them on request. He also hung the
Wacker Van Gogh Seascape (F 418) there, which Krller-Mller had sent to
Berlin over a week after the exhibition had opened. He confided his doubts

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about the suspicion that all eight canvases were fakes to a Swiss colleague.
Some of them were unquestionably crass, inadequate forgeries, he said,
but there were also canvases among them that may well have been painted
by Vincent van Gogh. Commenting on Houses at Saintes-Maries (F 421),
he wrote: Nor is it clear to me that this is not one of the first attempts in
Marseille to reconstruct the landscape from a drawing while working at
A few days later the police raided the studio of Leonhard Wacker and
seized a few paintings, which were taken to the Kronprinzenpalais. Two of
the works attracted particular attention: a sketch on canvas an Untermal-
ung of a composition in the style of Van Gogh, and a canvas signed Vin-
cent depicting a small figure in a field of grain (henceforth The Mower).
The Wacker brothers claimed this was a genuine Van Gogh from the col-

. After conducting a search of Leonhard Wackers studio in January , the police

conscated the painting The Mower ( x cm), Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Justi and De
la Faille thought it was a fake, but Bremmer and Scherjon regarded it as a work from
Vincent van Goghs own hand.

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lection of the Russian, but that it was in bad condition and supposedly
was going to be restored by Leonhard. The police and the Nationalgalerie
suspected that it was a recent forgery made by Leonhard himself. This find
was probably one reason why Justi abandoned all doubts regarding the dis-
puted paintings. In the Vossische Zeitung of 26 January 1929, he wrote that
all ten paintings from Kunsthandel Otto Wacker in the Nationalgalerie
were fakes.28 The recently seized The Mower, which does not appear in De
la Failles catalogue raisonn, was not included in this assessment.
Justi wrote that you can recognize a genuine Van Gogh by the brush-
strokes, each of which has a clear meaning all its own based on its pro-
portions and direction, relief and color, and also based on its relation to
the surrounding brushstrokes.29 Anyone who compares the Van Goghs of
Krller-Mller with those of Otto Wacker and fails to see the difference
between genuine and fake is simply incapable of seeing, according to Justi.
Attributing them to Van Gogh is an insult to the master. Apparently the
spuriousness was so flagrant that Justi refused to trouble himself with dis-
cussing the paintings separately. According to De Telegraaf, The authority
of this scholar, who is the head of one of the greatest museums in Germany,
will settle the matter for the time being as far as German public opinion is
Justis assessment was a direct criticism of Meier-Graefe, who had also
based his certificates of authenticity on stylistic arguments. In the eyes of
Justi, Meier-Graefe had disgraced himself forever. Meier-Graefe respond-
ed to Justis harsh criticism in the Berliner Tageblatt under the heading The
painter of weak moments. Unlike Justi, he discussed the paintings one
by one (except for The Mower) and classified them with words such as
suspect, indifferent, weak, very poor, and very feeble. The label
forged, however, was not one that he chose to use. He once against ex-
pressed his confidence in Otto Wacker but thought he should be more
forthright as to the provenance of the canvases.31
Meier-Graefes uncertainty contrasted sharply with Justis decisiveness
and scorn. The Justi speaking in the newspaper was quite different from the
person who, three weeks earlier, had written to a Swiss colleague that he was
not sure that all the works were forgeries and even held out the possibility
that a few of the canvases could have been the work of Van Gogh. He had
discussed the canvases with scores of people, he wrote; in other words, Justi

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had tested his observations against those of others and had adjusted them
accordingly. Actually, what had happened to Justi was what had cost De
la Faille so many weeks of work and what Grete Ring, on staff at Cassirer,
expressed so aptly: [...] once something is exposed as a forgery it immedi-
ately sinks into nothingness.32 Justi had stripped his article in the Vossische
Zeitung of all previous doubt, however, and he failed to mention that his
certainty was the result of much deliberation. Such an attitude was not only
in keeping with his person but was also consistent with the spirit of the
time. His critics undoubtedly would have construed his skepticism about
his own judgment and his attempt to qualify his visual impressions as signs
of weakness and incompetence.

When Helene Krller-Mller attended the exhibition at the end of Janu-
ary 1929 and discovered that her new acquisition Seascape was missing, she
was very put out. She demanded that it be placed in the museum proper.
Bremmer, too, spoke with Justi about it. He threatened to send the entire
Krller-Mller collection back to The Hague if the painting were not hung
in the exhibition with all the other Van Goghs. Justi gave in and hung it
among Vincents other works from the Arles period.33
In February the police placed six more paintings in the care of the Na-
tionalgalerie. They allowed a few to be returned to their German owners,
but kept other canvases from being sent back, such as a group of three from
the Matthiesen gallery: Self-Portrait (F 385), Cypresses (F 614), and Basket
with Rolls (henceforth Rolls, F 387).34 All this to the distress of the art dealer,
who had found in Krller-Mller a potential buyer for Self-Portrait and Cy-
presses.35 Bremmer would have told her that these two were genuine. Rolls,
on the other hand, was a fake in his estimation.36 The seizure of these can-
vases is the price Matthiesen had to pay for pressing charges against Wacker
on behalf of the Society of Art and Antique Dealers.37 For the courts, the
paintings would serve as evidence in a case against Wacker and therefore
had to remain available. Did the judicial authorities then raise their eye-
brows when they learned that the art dealer Matthiesen of all people the
claimant wanted the paintings back? Did they suspect that he might still
be able to dispose of a few questionable canvases? Were they at all aware that


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Matthiesen wanted to sell two of them for the price of genuine paintings by
Van Gogh? Matthiesen had asked Krller-Mller for 30,000 reichsmarks for
Cypresses. The sale did not go through, however: she thought the figure was
too high.38

Resin and lead

De la Failles rejection of all of Otto Wackers Van Goghs, Ludwig Justis
implacable judgment of ten of them, Meier-Graefes hesitation, the discov-
eries in Leonhard Wackers studio, and the statements by Russian museum
authorities sound like the opening strains to a quick court case. The Na-
tionalgalerie also began a technical and chemical examination of the paint
and linen, and on 10 February 1929, Die Kunstauktion reported that inves-
tigators from the Nationalgalerie had found resin and lead compounds in
the paint of the contested Van Goghs. These siccatives were probably added
to the paint to cause the canvases to dry faster. The maker of the paint-
ings must have known that pure oil paint would take years to dry. Experts
knew that adding drying agents was alien to Van Goghs working method:
he never added siccatives to his paint. Despite this addition, the results
yielded by the siccatives must not have been fast enough for the forger,
who then placed the canvases on a hot stove floor plate to speed up the
hardening process. Oil paint that dries under normal conditions becomes
so hard that it is difficult to scratch off with a fingernail. In the fake paint-
ings, however, the paint layer was so brittle that poking it with a fingernail
would cause the paint to crack. According to Die Kunstauktion, all forged
paintings exhibit these characteristics.39 De Telegraaf published a summary
of this article, which meant that in the Netherlands, too, it became known
that the Nationalgalerie regarded the ten canvases as fakes on chemical and
technical as well as stylistic grounds.40
Although these facts were less than favorable for Otto Wacker, the argu-
ment had not yet been decided against him. The article in Die Kunstauk-
tion had to do with all forged paintings, which supposedly meant the ten
paintings that were present in the museum in early February. Not a single
research report on these paintings can be found in the archives of the Na-
tionalgalerie from January or February 1929. Were all ten canvases actually
examined at that time, and if so, by whom, and how? Did the museum

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subject Krller-Mllers Seascape (F 418) to a chemical and technical exami-
nation, for example? According to the letter of the report it did, but there
are good reasons to believe that such an examination did not take place. The
Nationalgalerie, in the person of Justi, found all ten stylistically weak and
declared them as forgeries on that basis, but a much smaller number were
probably given a chemical examination at the same time.
About three years later, in 1932, E. Tubner, chemist for the German
State Museums, would draw up a report of his examination of the Wacker
Van Goghs in the Nationalgalerie. He wrote that he had examined five or
six paintings at that time, half of them fake, the other half genuine. Which
these were he does not say. (I will return to this in Chapter 5.) The words
five or six clearly suggest that he was writing from memory. The follow-
ing question is whether the Nationalgalerie examined the next six paintings
that were brought to the Kronprinzenpalais starting in early February. If
they were examined, how was it done and what were the results? These
questions do not arise from a fastidious desire to be exhaustive. As it turned
out, a lack of precision played a decisive role in the history of the Wacker
Van Goghs. None of the technical or chemical experts who would become
involved in this case examined all the works in their entirety. All in all, no
more than ten canvases would be subjected to such treatment. Even more
important is the fact that the knowledge thus gathered would largely be
kept secret.
The reason for the Nationalgaleries lack of precision has to do with the
speed of the revelations. In January, the weakness of Wackers alibi was
exposed. Justi must have thought it would be a matter of weeks before the
whole truth came out in the open. After all, for him the spuriousness of the
canvases was so obvious that doubt was out of the question. By February,
the Nationalgalerie was confident that half the canvases were fakes, includ-
ing Krller-Mllers Seascape. Justi and his associates probably slackened the
reins at that point, mindful of the saying that you dont need to eat a whole
ox to find out whether the meat is tough.
For others, however, the battle was far from over. The revelation regard-
ing the composition of the paint may have put a definite end to the idea
that the Van Goghs from the unknown Russian collector were all authentic,
but it failed to refute Bremmers theory about a core of genuine works.
Examining the other Wacker Van Goghs might have provided a definite

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answer, but they had not yet been offered to the Nationalgalerie. A few
were in other countries, and attempts by the police to have them brought
to Berlin had so far been unsuccessful. The judicial authorities had made
an attachment order against the paintings that were still at Otto Wackers
gallery in Berlin, however. These works could have been examined as well,
but the police soon discovered they had missed the boat.

Memory loss
On 26 January 1929, Otto and Leonhard Wacker arrived at Bremmers home
in The Hague. They had brought with them a few paintings from the gal-
lery on the Viktoriastrae, including Haystacks (F 625bis), which now be-
longed to Bremmer. In doing so, the Wacker brothers had in fact withdrawn
evidence from the attachment order imposed by the judicial authorities. In
December, Bremmer himself had attempted to bring Wacker paintings to
the Netherlands, but the police had managed to foil his efforts.41 After this
successful transport, it was up to Bremmer to decide whether to have his
property examined or not, and if so by whom.
Otto Wacker had promised his Berlin friends that after his return he
would lay his cards on the table with regard to the Russian collector. They
expected him back on 4 February, but they waited in vain. Wacker had
had an accident; that morning he had been found unconscious at the bot-
tom of a flight of stairs in Hotel Rijnland (owned by Bremmers sister) in
Leiden. He was rushed to the Sint-Elisabeth Hospital. When he regained
consciousness, he said he had felt ill that morning and had fallen down the
stairs. According to the attending physician his illness had been the result of
a heart attack; according to Wacker it had been an attempt to poison him.
Who was behind it the Russian nobleman, jealous art dealers he did
not know. The doctor maintained that Wacker had had a heart attack, but
Wacker in turn pointed an accusatory finger at the doctor, claiming that he
was part of a conspiracy to take his life.
Some sixty years later, Nicole Roepers looked up the official report of the
incident filed with the Leiden municipal police in 1929. According to this
report, an examination of Wackers blood and excrement revealed no traces
of toxic materials.42 Nevertheless, the case of the forged Van Goghs had
now acquired all the trappings of a detective novel: fake paintings, lots of

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money, a mysterious Russian nobleman, quarrelling experts, duped owners,
and a police investigation. And lets face it, whats a detective story without
a murder, or at least an attempted murder?
The incident prevented Otto Wacker from returning to Berlin, where the
police had wanted to question him. In an ironic news item, De Haagsche
Post wished Mr. Wacker a speedy recovery and expressed its hope that the
brain concussion would not have erased his memory of the provenance of
the controversial Van Goghs.43 At the end of March, Wacker left the Sint-
Elisabeth Hospital. According to De Maasbode he was fully recovered when
he set out for Berlin, but upon his arrival he immediately had himself re-
admitted to a hospital.44 After three months it looked as though the police
would not be able to question him for the time being: Wackers health had
deteriorated. But without his testimony, the case could not proceed.45

Daubignys Garden
By the time the exhibition of the Krller-Mller Van Gogh collection at
the Kronprinzenpalais reached its end on 28 February, there had been more
than 23,000 visitors, a large number for those days.46 All told, sixteen Wack-
er Van Goghs had hung in the museum and the publicity about the forged
paintings had contributed to the events great success. The exhibition was
highly praised. Even Justis most formidable critic, Karl Scheffler, was im-
pressed, but he couldnt resist writing that after viewing the Van Goghs he
immediately made his way to the rooms where the real masters were: Ma-
net, Renoir, and Czanne.47
Ludwig Justi must have seen the success of the exhibition in the Kro-
nprinzenpalais as a confirmation of the course the Nationalgalerie was tak-
ing. The museum was supposed to demonstrate the continuity of German
art since the nineteenth century. Starting with the Romantic school, a line
ran through Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Expression-
ism in which the German spirit was unmistakably present. But the museum
was unable to show any paintings by one key figure in that development:
Vincent van Gogh. So after the exhibition closed, Justi got in touch with
various art dealers in order to purchase some Van Goghs for the Nation-
algalerie. There were Van Goghs on the market, but he was not interested
in acquiring just a few random paintings. There had to be a masterpiece

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among them. Other German museums such as those in Cologne, Essen,
Magdeburg, and Munich owned at least one work by the master. By making
some sensational purchases, the Nationalgalerie would be able to distin-
guish itself and to bid farewell once and for all to the restrictions that the
Kaiser had placed on the collection.
Justi had let his eye fall on a canvas he regarded as more beautiful than
any painting from the Krller-Mller collection. It had been painted a few
weeks before Vincents death, and because of its size 53 x 104 cm (20 x
41 inches), unusual dimensions for a work by Vincent it was certain to
attract attention. The work was Daubignys Garden (F 776), owned by the
Paris art dealer Paul Rosenberg. There were other Van Gogh paintings on
his wish list, but he was burning to buy this particular canvas for the mu-
seum. He knew it would cost a great deal of money, much more than the
museums annual acquisitions budget would allow, but he had a solution
for this problem. He just might be able to exchange the canvas with Rosen-
berg for a Degas from the collection of the Nationalgalerie, although the
exchange would require the permission of the minister. There was a but,
however, and it was a big one. Justi knew about the rumor, which so far had
not been published, that Daubignys Garden was a forgery.

. Daubignys Garden (F ), x cm, Hiroshima Museum of Art. For museum

director Justi, the purchase in was the beginning of a Van Gogh collection for
the Nationalgalerie. In Justis opponents would accuse him of having paid far too
much for it. On top of all this the rumor that it was forged began to make the rounds.

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He would have to work with great caution. A point-blank question about
authenticity would cause Rosenberg to break off negotiations and sell the
canvas to an American. Justi needed time to make inquiries in the French
art world. He played for time by having the canvas brought to Berlin on
approval. In the meantime he approached two experts from the French art
world and presented his problem to them. There is a second version of the
painting, wrote Justi, which belongs to a Swiss collector, the authenticity of
which is beyond doubt. An almost identical painting does not necessarily
indicate a forgery, since Van Gogh often repeated certain motifs. But the
painting had been the property of the French painter and collector mile
Schuffenecker (1851-1934). It is known, wrote Justi, that Schuffenecker
made copies of paintings by Van Gogh. Justi asked whether the Rosenberg
Daubignys Garden was a copy made by Schuffenecker that had been put
on the market as a genuine Van Gogh around the turn of the century. The
provenance in De la Failles Van Gogh catalogue went back no further
than 1900. Would it be possible to find out who had owned it before that
date? Justi urged his correspondents to be cautious. What if the inquiries
about the canvas were to become known? It might create doubts about its
authenticity, which would have to be investigated and refuted. One of his
requests was to obtain information from Paul Gachet, the doctor who had
stood at Vincents side during the last months of his life in Auvers-sur-
Oise, and from Schuffenecker. Rosenberg was not to hear a word about
these conversations.48
Daubignys Garden arrived at the Kronprinzenpalais on 26 March, and
the Nationalgaleries acquisitions commission was immediately captivated
by its beauty.49 Whether Justi told them of the doubts about the paintings
authenticity is unknown, but in the meantime he received a detailed and
reassuring answer from one of his correspondents in France. Justis appeal
for discretion seemed to have worked. The doubts about the painting never
reached the newspapers. But Justi was not the only one to have heard the
rumor. A few of his opponents knew about it, too, and three years later they
would use it against him.
Rosenberg decided against exchanging Daubignys Garden for the Degas.
Justi was in some ways relieved at the decision. Exchanging a piece from
the intellectual legacy of Hugo van Tschudi would have infuriated his op-
ponents all over again. Buying the painting with museum funds would have

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used up the entire acquisitions budget for 1929 in one fell swoop, probably
would have been turned down by the influential Liebermann, and might
have been blocked by the minister. For a long time he had been searching
for a way to get around this resistance when in March 1929 the Verein der
Freunde der Nationalgalerie was set up, an organization that would pur-
chase modern art on the museums behalf. Now, with a small group on the
board who shared his preferences, he could purchase art and give it to the
Nationalgalerie on long-term loan. About seventy of the societys members
were from the business community, with Baron Eduard von der Heydt as
chairman. Von der Heydt was a banker, collector, and owner of works by
Van Gogh.
Daubignys Garden was one of the first paintings to be purchased with
money from the society and a few private funds. The canvas cost 240,000
reichsmarks in June 1929, setting a new record in Germany for paintings
by Van Gogh. In that same month the Nationalgalerie bought two more
Van Gogh paintings: La Moisson (F 628, henceforth The Harvest) and Les
amoureux (F 485, henceforth Lovers).50 The Nationalgalerie showed not the
slightest doubt about the authenticity of these two canvases. Yet their au-
thenticity, too, was to become the focus of a battle. And even though Justi
had not bought them with state funds, the acquisitions would be heavily
counted against him.
This purchase was the beginning of a beautiful Van Gogh collection for
the Nationalgalerie. It is not known what Justis plans were for the nature
and size of the collection. He probably had only a rough idea himself. The
acquisitions were supposed to be contingent on whatever Van Goghs were
on the art market, although a fine Van Gogh collection in the most impor-
tant modern art museum in Germany might tempt collectors to favor the
museum with gifts of Vincents work. But extreme economic and political
changes would soon spoil everything. Justi was forced to put the plan on
hold because of the New York stock market crash, which took place a few
months later on 27 October 1929. And in 1933 the Nazis would seize power,
bringing the plan to create a Van Gogh collection in the Nationalgalerie to
a screeching halt.

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In early May 1929, the police seized nine paintings from the home of Otto
Wackers father, the painter Hans Wacker (1868-1958), in Berlin. This was
followed one week later by the confiscation of twelve paintings by Leon-
hard Wacker. The police sent the paintings to the Nationalgalerie and asked
whether any similarities in painting technique could be found between these
works and the Van Goghs of Otto Wacker.51 Justi turned this task over to his
curator, the sculptor and art historian Ludwig Thormaehlen (1889-1956).
As Thormaehlen looked the paintings over, he was overcome by one sur-
prise after another. Were all nine made by one and the same person? What
could possibly account for the amazing variety of styles and techniques? If
Thormaehlen had not known better, he would have thought that three or
four different artists had produced the works. In two of the paintings he
recognized an attempt to imitate the painter Heinrich Nauen, who had
been born in Krefeld and was influenced by Macke and Van Gogh. Five of
the nine canvases were clearly attempts to work in Van Goghs style. For in-
stance, there was a remarkable similarity in painting technique between the
Wacker Van Gogh Rolls (F 387) and a flower still life confiscated from Hans
Wacker. In his assessment of two of the paintings from Leonhard Wackers
studio, Thormaehlen concluded that it was impossible to see these works as
anything but preliminary studies for a Van Gogh. Another painting could
easily have passed for a Frans Hals at first glance. In his report to the police,
Thormaehlen wrote that every aspiring artist imitates the work of others
during his period of study in order to learn from them, but the 61-year-old
Hans Wacker and his 34-year-old son had passed that phase long ago. For
Thormaehlen it was an open-and-shut case. Hans Wackers still lifes were
clear evidence that, one way or another, he had had a hand in the Van Gogh
forgeries. The paintings seized from his son Leonhard were also unmistak-
able efforts to mimic the style of Van Gogh. All the canvases were conscious
imitations and were not attempts to develop a personal style.52
In the Netherlands, the newspapers announced in July that paintings had
been seized from Hans and Leonhard Wacker, but two months later word
trickled out that the police investigation had not uncovered much fresh
material. It was Ottos brother, Leonhard, who then spoke up: Prof. [sic]
Wacker of Dusseldorf declared that he has restored a few Van Goghs for
his brother, and the police investigation did indeed reveal that Van Goghs


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were found in his studio.53 After another month, the newspapers wrote that
canvases by Wacker Senior had been confiscated but said nothing about the
Nationalgaleries devastating conclusions.
Despite all the damning facts, a significant number of which had been
made public during the first half of 1929, the newspapers reported that the
preliminary investigation had reached a dead end. The police could not
question Otto Wacker on account of the delicate state of his health. Evi-
dence that he knew the paintings were forgeries when he sold them would
have to be produced. Even if experts were to agree on the spuriousness of
the works, Wacker could still have been the victim of fraud and would
probably get off scot-free. In Germany it was feared that the case would run
aground and that the fake works would go back into circulation. When the
year 1929 came to an end, Wacker had not been indicted and press attention
for the case was waning.
For Otto Wacker, however, there was little to celebrate. The actions taken
by his colleagues, the police, the museum authorities, and the journalists
had not done him any good. But there was hope. In the Dutch art world,
Bremmer had received considerable support for his assessment that some of
Wackers Van Goghs were quite genuine.

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3 Hushing up

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Martin de Wild (1899-1969)

belonged to a select circle of restorers with a lively interest in scientific
investigation. He was trained by his father, Derix de Wild ( 1932), but
eventually came to regard his more practical approach as inadequate. In
De Wild Juniors opinion, the mtier needed to be professionalized. He
believed restorers needed to have knowledge of chemistry, the science most
suited to understanding the material properties of paintings: which chemi-
cal and physical processes occur in pigments and mediums, in panels and
canvas? De Wild thus decided to take a degree in chemistry at the Tech-
nische Hogeschool (Technical University) in Delft. It was precisely during
this period the early 1920s that controversy began to arise surrounding
the authenticity of a number of works of the Dutch Golden Age. Stories of
forgeries were reported in the press year in and year out. The art world was
divided as to the role scientists could play in determining whether a work
was genuine or fake. A scandal regarding a painting discovered by Hofstede
de Groot and attributed to Frans Hals led in 1924-25 to a notorious law-
suit that was eventually settled on the basis of both stylistic and scientific
arguments. The picture was not by Frans Hals, but was in fact a twentieth-
century forgery a conclusion Hofstede de Groot refused to accept.1 The
title of the pamphlet he wrote on the case is telling: Echt of onecht? Oog of
chemie? (True or False? The Eye or Chemistry?). For Hofstede de Groot, the
answer was simple: In painting the eye must always be the final judge, just
as in music the ear not the tuning fork or the test tube.2
Hofstede de Groots sentiments were shared by other connoisseurs, but it
failed to convince De Wild and his teacher, Professor Dr. P.E.C. Scheer, who
had conducted the chemical analysis of the so-called Frans Hals. In 1928 De
Wild successfully completed his chemistry degree with a dissertation entitled

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Het natuurwetenschappelijk onderzoek van schilderijen (The Scientic Examina-
tion of Pictures), which also appeared in English and German. De Wild quickly
came to be seen as an authority in the eld, receiving commissions from muse-
ums, dealers, and private collectors. In 1938 he was hired by the Rijksuniversiteit
Utrecht to teach a class in the painting techniques of the Old Masters. In 1946
the examining judge at the court in Amsterdam appointed him and four other
experts among them the chemist Dr. W. Froentjes (1909-2006) to examine
several works attributed to the seventeenth-century painters Johannes Vermeer
and Pieter de Hoogh, all of which turned out to be from the hand of the mas-
ter forger Han van Meegeren (1889-1947).3 By the end of his career, De Wild
had garnered the respect of collectors and museums all over Europe and in the
United States. The director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, for
example, wrote to him: I have a problem, and when I have a problem I often
turn to you.4 In 1965 he was referred to as the Netherlands grand old man of
the scientic analysis of works of art.5

. Chemist and art restorer Dr. A.M. de Wild in around .

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From 1928 onwards, De Wild was responsible for the restoration of a num-
ber of paintings from the Krller-Mller collection. He was commissioned
and paid by Bremmer. The exact duration and scope of his work are un-
known, but it appears that between 1929 and 1931 he restored more than
fifty pictures for some 2,500 guilders.6 At the end of 1928 De Wild became
embroiled in the controversy surrounding the works of Van Gogh sold by
Otto Wacker. Probably at the request of Bremmers friend, Willem Scher-
jon, he examined a number of works from Wackers gallery considered by
De la Faille to be forgeries. On 2 December 1928, the day after the publica-
tion in De Telegraaf of the list from De la Failles Supplment, which named
the thirty Wacker forgeries together with their owners, the newspaper pub-
lished De Wilds opinion on the case. According to De Telegraaf, the restorer
had examined paint from several pictures and come to the conclusion that
they were thirty to thirty-five years old, therefore originating in a period
before anyone would have thought of forging a Van Gogh! 7 The newspaper
failed to mention exactly which works had been examined. In later articles,
this thirty to thirty-five years was changed to at least thirty-five to forty-
five, thereby strengthening the argument for their authenticity: after all,
Van Gogh had died in 1890.8
De la Faille remained undaunted and quickly parried his critics. He was
in possession of testimony from a well-known Amsterdam restorer that
put paid to De Wilds assertions. The age of a work of art could never be de-
termined solely on the basis of chemical analysis, according to De la Faille,
because anyone wishing to forge a picture would use special paint. There
was, he wrote, a kind of paint available that dries quickly and is as hard as
stone, similar to what we find in Van Goghs paintings. 9 De la Faille did
not reveal the restorers identity, but published his paint recipe with the aim
of casting doubt on De Wilds investigation. The proponents of Wackers
Van Goghs, however, remained unconvinced and their confidence in De
Wild was unshaken.
The newspaper reports on De Wilds activities in the years that followed
are rather imprecise, failing to mention the exact number and identity of
the Wacker pictures he examined. Invariably mentioned is his investigation
into the paint of Seascape (F 418) and Two Poplars (F 639), which was sup-
posed to confirm their age at around forty years and thus their authentic-


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ity. Among other things, in February 1929 De Wild gave a slide lecture on
his work in which according to the Utrechtsch Provinciaals en Stedelijk
Dagblad he showed x-radiographs of one genuine and one doubtful Van
Gogh. It is not certain which pictures these were. Nor did De Wild him-
self ever publish anything that could provide a decisive answer as to which
Wacker paintings he examined and with what result.
Why is it important to trouble oneself about the precise scope and nature
of De Wilds examinations so many years after the fact? His reputation,
after all, has outlived him. As late as 2003, in an overview of the Wacker af-
fair, he is referred to as one of the few truly independent experts.10 There is,
however, reason to be skeptical on exactly this point. In 2002 I uncovered
facts that shed a very different light on De Wilds role in the scandal: rather
than being independent, he appears to have been a partisan. The point
of departure for this claim is a Wacker Van Gogh in the collection of an
American millionaire.

Chester Dale
In many ways, Chester Dale (1883-1962) lived the American dream. From
a modest background, he quickly worked his way up from messenger boy
to banker, becoming one of the countrys wealthiest men by the eve of
the First World War. He had been a professional boxer, played golf, was
an esteemed member of New Yorks high society, and had joined the New
York Stock Exchange a testimony to his wealth and influence at the age
of only thirty-five. His marriage to artist-critic Maud Murray (1875-1953),
who had experienced the Paris art world at first hand and was determined
to make it better known in the United States, stimulated his interest in
art collecting.11 She chose the works, he negotiated the price. Here, too,
Chester Dale was immensely successful; although the stock market crash
of October 1929 led to the loss of a large part of his fortune, by the end
of the 1950s his collection of modern art comprised more than 250 paint-
ings and sculptures and was worth more than twenty-two million dollars. 12
This sum is even more impressive when we learn that he had actually spent
only two million. The collection also contained many works from other
periods, including masterpieces by Tintoretto, El Greco, Rubens, and Da-
vid, among others.

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. The American millionaire Chester
Dale bought modern French paintings
on a grand scale during the twenties,
attracting a great deal of press attention.
In May he thought he had added a
real Van Gogh to his collection with the
purchase of Self-Portrait at the Easel (F.

Chester Dale was one of those American entrepreneurs for whom art was
also an investment. In this regard he went somewhat further than his co-
collectors, who tended to keep fairly aloof from the business side of things.
In 1925 he became a stockholder in the gallery Georges Petit in Paris, and
soon had spies in both the French capital and in New York who helped him
acquire works by living artists such as Modigliani, Picasso, and Matisse at a
favorable price. The Dales were extraordinarily open about their purchases,
issuing press releases with details about the artists, works, and values. This
produced the desired effect, with the press devoting column after column
to their collection. Such behavior is part and parcel of the game Americas
wealthy like to play with one another: demonstrative spending on art was
and still is an indication of social success. On 31 March 1930, for example,
The New York Times reported that in 1929, collectors in the United States
had spent 250,000,000 dollars on art. The oil-baron John D. Rockefeller
had paid 375,000 for Piero della Francescas Crucifixion, while the cigarette
manufacturer Schinasi had spent 250,000 on a Madonna and Child by Fra
Filippo Lippi. As for Chester Dale, he had made some significant acquisi-

chester dale

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tions, among them La Mousm (F 431) by Vincent van Gogh. The reporter
was tactfully silent on the price: a mere 40,000 dollars not exactly a
sum to rival the Rockefellers. Considering the numbers, it may seem that
Chester Dale was a bit player in the collecting world, but appearances can
be deceiving. His collection of 250 modern French paintings attracted the
attention of American museums and led to his appointment to a variety of
administrative functions in the art world.
Dale was no easy customer: he was quick-tempered, dogmatic, rough-
spoken, and always entirely convinced of being in the right. Looking back
on his career in 1956, he wrote: All my life has been a challenge, just as my
collecting pictures is a challenge. Its that terrible desire to win!13 He was
fond of a drop: having a drink with him always meant downing two; after all
a bird cant y on one wing.14 Many in the art world considered him vulgar,
although other epithets were used as well: shrewd, brilliant, generous with
his friends. One way or another, Dale was a gure to be reckoned with.
In May 1928 Dale bought Van Goghs Self-Portrait at the Easel (F 523)
from Otto Wacker for 31,500 dollars.15 Five months later it went on dis-
play in New York.16 The American press was enthusiastic about the picture,
which the New York Times declared was [...] considered by many the best
thing he ever did.17 The New Yorker described it as [...] a burning, thrill-
ing thing and, as in all Van Gogh, [...] a perfect treatise in color,18 while art
critic Henry McBride called it an indisputable masterpiece.19 Back in the
Netherlands, however, De la Faille had begun to think differently, and in
early December he published his inventory of the Van Gogh works he con-
sidered to be forgeries all of them from Wacker in De Telegraaf and Alge-
meen Handelsblad. Among them was Self-Portrait at the Easel, a much-loved
and much-admired work in the collection of Maud and Chester Dale.20

The uproar over Wackers Van Goghs in the Netherlands and Germany was
not lost on the Dales. The American and English press paid little attention
to the affair, but it was enough to set their alarm bells ringing.21 Maud Dale
hired a clipping agency and translators to help her keep abreast of develop-
ments. The couple was convinced that their work was not only genuine, but
also one of the artists best. They found support among critics, collectors,

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and connoisseurs in the United States and Europe, among them the Utrecht
publisher Willem Scherjon (1878-1938).
In 1928 Scherjon was the owner of a publishing and printing house spe-
cializing in art books, with Bremmers popular magazine Beeldende Kunst

. In December the art dealer Willem Scherjon bought the painting Two Poplars
(F ), x cm., now at the Ohara Museum of Art, Karushiki, Japan. It proved
unmarketable because De la Faille called it a fake Van Gogh.


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(1913-1938) in his list.22 He was a pupil and long-time friend of Bremmer,
sharing the latters passion for modern art. Scherjon was a collector of the
work of artists like Charley Toorop, Bart van der Leck, and Floris Verster;
he was acquainted with many in the art world and was the driving force
behind the Vereniging Voor de Kunst (Association for Art) in Utrecht.23
One of his contacts was the Utrecht art dealer C.W. Huinck, who special-
ized in modern French and Dutch works: Daubigny, Rousseau, Fantin-
Latour, Van Gogh, Van der Leck, and others. Through Bremmer, Huinck
had also had business dealings with the Krllers, selling them works by
Redon and Verster, among others.24 Huinck was involved commercially in
Beeldende Kunst as well. Reproductions of paintings sold in his gallery were
regularly found on its pages, and he was also a loyal advertiser.
Scherjon was also a member of the board of the Utrechtse Museum-
vereniging voor Hedendaagse Kunst (Utrecht Museum Association for
Contemporary Art), which worked closely with the citys Centraal Mu-
seum. The museum was dependent for its displays of modern art on col-
lectors like Bremmer and Scherjon, as it had no such collection of its own.
The associations board was somewhat ambivalent about Scherjons efforts,
however. During a meeting in 1928 the chairman suggested that one of the
members seemed to be pushing excessively for the Huinck gallery, and that
in discussions regarding documents, there seemed to be a tendency to-
wards partisanship. Scherjon replied that if these complaints were directed
at him personally he was ready to lay down his mandate.25 The association
was not prepared to let things go so far, though: Scherjon knew the Dutch
art world better than almost anyone, and his relationships with artists, col-
lectors, and dealers were regarded as invaluable.
In December 1929 Scherjon left the museum association and sold his
publishing house. In April 1930 he and Huinck opened a gallery in Am-
sterdam. They continued their professional dealings with Bremmer: they
placed ads in Beeldende Kunst, and he reviewed their stock. Little is known
about Scherjon as a person, but he must have been an assiduous man. Art
critic W. Jos. de Gruyter, who accompanied him several times on busi-
ness trips to Paris, called him a real entrepreneur: Later I would come to
the conclusion that all art dealers are, even the so-called idealists. When it
comes to the nitty-gritty and they see a chance to make a good deal, they are
all as hard as nails. Business is business.26 Scherjons starting capital in the

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gallery probably came in the form of works from his own collection, among
them Two Poplars, for which he had paid some 11,500 guilders. The pic-
ture number F 639 in De la Failles Van Gogh catalogue was also listed
among the forgeries in the latters Supplment of November 1928. Scherjon
was unperturbed by De la Failles assessment and like Bremmer contin-
ued to proclaim the authenticity of Wackers Van Goghs.

Voor de Kunst
In early February 1929 Ludwig Justi went to the press with the informa-
tion that the Wacker Van Goghs in his museum were forgeries. This gave
De la Failles allies new ammunition for their contention that all the works
originating with Wackers mysterious Russian collector were fake. His op-
ponents, however, following Bremmers line, continued to maintain that
at least some of the works from the controversial collection were in fact
Scherjon sought to confirm Bremmers standpoint, coming up with a
move to counter the research undertaken at the Nationalgalerie. A Van
Gogh exhibition in Utrecht was to undermine Justis position and convince
the world that a number of the paintings sold by Wacker were in fact genu-
ine. In 1928 he obtained permission from Vincent Willem van Gogh to put
fifty-two paintings and six drawings on display at the gallery of Voor de
Kunst in Nobelstraat in Utrecht; the show was to run from mid-April for
a duration of six weeks. De la Faille was informed and warned the Engi-
neer that Scherjon would undoubtedly use the exhibition to proclaim the
authenticity of his own Two Poplars. We do not know whether Vincent Wil-
lem was influenced by De la Failles admonitions, nor whether Scherjon had
actually planned to put his own Wacker Van Gogh on view. He certainly
had something like it in mind, if not with his own work than with Chester
Dales Self-Portrait at the Easel, which was to be exhibited in Paris in 1929.
The Dales agreed to have their work shown in Utrecht and shipped it to
France at the end of April.27
On Saturday, 25 May, as the Van Gogh exhibition at Voor de Kunst
was about to enter its last week, Scherjon added two pictures to the display:
Dales Self-Portrait at the Easel and another, undisputed self-portrait (F 626)
from the collection of Tutein Nolthenius, a work from Van Goghs period

voor de kunst

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at the asylum in Saint-Rmy.28 The exhibition was then extended by a week,
the aim being to give any and everyone the chance to see with their own eyes
that the two paintings were by the same hand. Scherjon wrote a small leaet
on the show, which appeared in both English and French, dated April 1929.
In it he claimed to have found evidence for the authenticity of Chester Dales
work in Vincents letters from Saint-Rmy, and quoted liberally from them.
Art critics praised both the leaflet and the paintings. The NRC wrote
that in Self-Portrait at the Easel, Van Gogh had shown himself to be in
touch with the deeper, essential basis of things.29 De Maasbode examined
in detail the coloration, brushwork, and composition of Self-Portrait at the
Easel, calling it the artists most beautiful work. The reporters praise was
couched in rather cryptic language: If this portrait is not genuine, what at
all can one then believe to be a real Van Gogh?30 Het Vaderland art critic
Just Havelaar failed to understand why De la Faille continued to insist it
was a forgery: Only a great artist could have painted this picture, and
only Van Gogh could have been that artist. There can be no doubt about
it, it seems to me.31 The critic for the Utrechtsche Courant called it a work
of touching beauty.32 De Gruyter, critic for the Utrechtsch Provinciaals en
Stedelijk Dagblad, however, pulled out all the lyrical stops: In our opinion,
there is not one work in the exhibition that is superior in terms of color. [...]
There is something in it of a farewell, an unsettling calm as if before a storm.
So much wisdom in the face of so many challenges can only be obtained
by one living on the edge between life and death. In this sense it is a tragic
portrait, but also one that is more free than any other we know by Vincents
hand. It is a tragic portrait, but not at all melancholy; all that is heavy, mel-
ancholy or earthly has been puried by love and universal understanding
and left far behind. The body is now nothing more than a brittle husk, it is
no longer really present, it has lost its weight, almost its right to exist.33
The critics were also full of praise for Scherjons canvas, Two Poplars, al-
though it was not on view at the exhibition at Voor de Kunst but rather a
few blocks away at the Centraal Museum. De la Failles claim that this paint-
ing, too, was a forgery, met with total disbelief. De Maasbode: It is a very
pretty landscape, outstandingly painted in a single tone.34 Scherjons aim of
quelling the rumors surrounding Chester Dales picture seems to have been
achieved. De la Faille published a riposte, but found no public support for
his continuing claim that Self-Portrait at the Easel was a forgery.35

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On 6 June 1929, the day after the closure of the exhibition, Scherjon brought
Self-Portrait at the Easel to De Wilds laboratory in The Hague. Scherjon
was on a very particular mission: The owner of the portrait, Mr. Chester
Dale of New York, has given permission to have the work examined in order
to obtain scientific proof of its age, and to demonstrate its technical simi-
larities with paintings by Vincent van Gogh.36
This statement illustrates the collectors unswerving faith in his picture.
According to Maud Dale, chemical analysis was the only true touchstone,
and would prove once and for all that the painting was genuine.37 Scherjon,
too, was convinced the result would be positive. A few months earlier, in
February 1929, he had written to Dale that he and Bremmer had studied
a photograph of Self-Portrait at the Easel and that there could be no doubt
that it was a genuine Van Gogh. There were certainly forgeries among the
pictures sold by Otto Wacker, but some of them were unquestionably au-
thentic. According to De Wild, the paint in Two Poplars was forty years old.
De Wild, Scherjon assured Chester Dale, would similarly deliver scientific
proof regarding the self-portraits age.38
What conclusions did De Wild reach in June 1929? No written record
of his examination has survived, assuming there ever was one. In any case,
nothing was found among his papers at the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthisto-
rische Documentatie (RKD) in The Hague, nor in any of the other archives
I visited. A dead end had apparently been reached. Was it possible, I asked
myself, that others who had known him could shed light on this crucial as-
pect of my search for the role of the art experts in the Wacker affair, in this
case a chemist with a doctoral degree?
We now make a great leap forward, from June 1929 to 30 May 2002,
the day I had a chat with the ninety-three-year-old chemist W. Froentjes,
former director of the forensic laboratory of the Ministry of Justice and
professor emeritus of criminalistics at the University of Leiden. He had
met De Wild after the Second World War and together they had examined
a large number of works of art, among them paintings attributed to Van
Gogh. Froentjes had pleasant memories of their collaboration, and had
become quite close to De Wild. Asked about his qualities as a scientist he
said: De Wild was a good analyst, he was particularly good at verifying


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Above: . Sample vial F ,
turned a quarter of the way
around. The F for fake is
circled in red.
Upper left: . Sample vials
of paint taken from art dealer
Otto Wackers Van Goghs.
The third vial from the left is F
, Self-Portrait at the Easel.
Lower left: . De Wilds
box with paint samples from
paintings by Vincent van

In the course of our conversation, Froentjes produced a small box,

which De Wild had given him in the 1960s. It contained glass vials with
paint samples from works attributed correctly or not to Vincent van
Gogh. De Wild had collected them in the years 1929-30. Each vial has a
tiny label with the corresponding F-number: nineteen vials from the same
number of works in the collection of Vincent Willem van Gogh; two from
private collectors; and seven from the gallery of Otto Wacker. The notes at

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the lower right indicate which of the seven Wacker Van Goghs De Wilds
analyses had shown to be forgeries. Two of the vials are marked with the
letter G for genuine. One vial bears an F for false that has been crossed
out and replaced with a G and two question marks. All the other vials
are clearly labeled F. One of these is also numbered 523 Chester
Dales Self-Portrait at the Easel. What is more, De Wild circled the F in

Who Knew?
Back to 1929. Did De Wild deliver his unwelcome message directly to Dale,
or did he also confide in Scherjon? The available evidence proves nothing
either way. There is no correspondence with De Wild among Dales papers
in Washington, only with Scherjon. And the surviving letters make no men-
tion of the outcome. It seems highly unlikely, however, that Scherjon who
had mediated between Dale and De Wild could have been ignorant of the
research results.
In fact, there are a number of clues that indicate quite the opposite. One
month after handing over the painting to De Wild, Scherjon attacked De la
Faille in the Utrechts Provinciaals en Stedelijk Dagblad for his stance on Self-
Portrait at the Easel. He reiterated De Gruyters aesthetic arguments, once
again made an appeal to Vincents letters, and advanced the positive re-
sults of De Wilds analysis of his own painting, Two Poplars. This exchange
would have been the perfect opportunity to make the scientific evidence in
favor of the self-portrait known to the wider world. But Scherjon failed to
make use of it, and this gives reason for pause.39
Moreover, in early 1929 Scherjon had formulated the ambitious plan to
write a book on the works of Van Goghs last years in France, in which
letters, documents, and scientific arguments would serve to support his
contentions regarding authenticity. The book was finally published in 1932,
but without any mention at all of the technical research recently conducted
into Van Goghs paintings. Elsewhere that same year, Scherjon did men-
tion some of the results of these examinations in this case x-radiographs
of three versions of The Sower40 but only in order to discredit forensic
analysis as such.41 Scherjon had turned science in nothing more than the
handmaiden of the art trade.

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There is yet another indication that Scherjon was aware of De Wilds
conclusions in the matter of the self-portrait. Krller-Mller had seen the
picture in June 1929 on an unannounced visit to the restorer, whereby he
is said to have told her that the work was in poor condition. She makes no
mention of his investigations into its authenticity, and De Wild himself had
probably kept quiet on the subject. He did, however, show her the x-rays he
had made. This technique, which reveals the underlying layers of paint, was
still rather new at the time, and De Wild was one of the first in the Neth-
erlands to own his own equipment. In a letter of July 1929 to J.A. Thomas,
commissioner of police in Berlin, Krller-Mller describes her visit to the
very stringent and entirely trustworthy De Wild and states that no one in
Holland now had any doubt as to the paintings authenticity; simultaneous-
ly, however, promising Thomas total cooperation in his investigation.42 She
also wrote to Scherjon to express her disagreement with Bremmer on this
issue: he thought that one should ignore all the [Berlin commissioners]
letters and questions; on the contrary, I think that we should do all we can
to help the truth come out.43
When the collector then asked Scherjon to give her Chester Dales ad-
dress the Berlin police wanted to have the self-portrait examined in Ger-
many and had asked for her help he went to great lengths to avoid pro-
viding her with the information she had requested. What a pity, he wrote,
that her inquiry had come so late; he would have been more than happy to
take the portrait to Berlin, but now it was far away, back in America. It was
unfortunate, but it would simply be too much trouble to have it shipped
to Europe again. Having it looked at in Berlin was not such a good idea
anyway; the German investigators were really quite superficial. And, by the
way, the painting had been on show in Utrecht, as the German press and
the Nationalgalerie had been aware: they should simply have come to see it!
More importantly, a photograph was enough to tell anyone the work was
genuine; there was certainly no need to bring it back to Europe. In the end,
Scherjon offered to send both a color reproduction and a black and white
photograph to Berlin.44 Neither Krller-Mller nor the Berlin police were
given access to Chester Dale.

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The collector, meanwhile, wanted a second opinion, and on the way back to
New York had Self-Portrait at the Easel examined in June 1929 in Paris. The
restorer, whose identity I have been unable to discover, sent Dale a report
later that same month. Most of the eleven-page document is devoted to the
events leading up to the controversy surrounding the Wacker Van Goghs.
He casts doubt on De la Failles competence and criticizes his behavior,
while the views of other critics are treated with reserve, in particular those
of Monsieur Bremmer, who rightly or wrongly passes in Holland as an
authority on Van Gogh. His tone is that of an objective observer, unin-
fluenced by either prejudice or hostile opinions; his conclusions are based
purely on stylistic and technical examination which, through cold and
syllogistic reasoning led him to one inexorable conclusion: Dale was the
owner of a forgery. In terms of style: the colors lacked the contrast so typi-
cal of the master of Arles, the lines were weak, and parts of the head were
entirely unrelated to one another. Technically speaking: the canvas was no
more than five years old; the backing, designed to suggest age, was bogus;
the composition of the paint was atypical for Van Gogh; and the picture
had been dried artificially perhaps even in an oven in order to conceal
its recent production.
The author seems to have had some difficulty in conveying these un-
wanted tidings, sensing that the owner might not immediately accept his
conclusions. He writes that he would have liked nothing better than to
prove the pictures authenticity, particularly given his high regard for its
owners. But he can do nothing but tell the truth. The final lines of the
report are worth quoting in full: This report has been drawn up by me for
your personal satisfaction; you can make any use of it you wish. If in spite
of it, you still wish to keep your picture, you have only to pigeon-hole this
document among your archives. Whatever you may decide to do, be assured
that what I have done has been done because of the kindness I feel for you,
and in the service of the truth.45
Chester Dale took this advice, and hid the report away among his docu-
ments. It remained there for more than seventy years before finally being
rescued from oblivion.
Dale also chose not to take advantage of the oer made by the dealers
who had sold him the picture, Joseph Stransky and the Wildenstein gallery,


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in May 1928, which would have allowed him to return the self-portrait. At
the time, they were also entirely convinced of its authenticity, and would
undoubtedly have been much troubled by the declarations of De la Faille, De
Wild, and the anonymous Paris restorer. They probably would have taken the
painting back, as had all the German dealers before them for the Wacker Van
Goghs they had sold.46 Why did Dale fail to make use of this opportunity?
It is possible he was afraid of the negative publicity. In this same period
February and March 1929 the dealer Joseph Duveen was on trial in New
York for his refusal to accept the authenticity of La belle ferronire, claimed
by its owner Andre Hahn and her coterie of experts to have been the work
of Leonardo da Vinci. Duveen was in a dicult position, although he too
had a number of eminent supporters. The attention was bad for business
and Duveen eventually decided to settle out of court, paying Hahn a total of
60,000 dollars. He remained convinced that the picture was a fake, but the
settlement seemed in the eyes of the world like an admission of error.47
The most likely explanation for Dales choices, then, appears to have
been the fear of losing face. They certainly bear witness to an unswerving
faith in his own judgment. As he said himself, no dealer would ever have
thought to try and palm off a painting on him: he made all his decisions
himself.48 Moreover, for a whole year he and his wife had heard nothing but
praise for Self-Portrait at the Easel from both American and Dutch critics.
Dale, who remained childless, once said that he loved his paintings, that
they were his family. Admitting that one of these children was actually a
bastard particularly after months of approbation would undoubtedly
have been very painful.
Revealing the truth about the painting would have been made even more
difficult by the fact that in the 1920s the dust stirred up in the American
art world by modern European painting had yet to settle. There were nu-
merous critics who made no secret of their distaste for the works of the
Post-Impressionists among them Van Gogh. In 1926, for example, the
year in which the Dales bought a large number of modern French works,
the Boston Herald wrote: Cezanne was a poor painter, one with bad eye-
sight... Van Gogh was a crazy galoot, who cut off his ear to spite a woman
and who painted for years in an insane asylum at Arles... At their worst [his
paintings] resemble the crude, elemental expressions which nit-wits affix to
sidewalks, fences, barn doors, and elsewhere especially elsewhere.49

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In 1932 both Maud and Chester Dale abruptly ended their collaboration
with the French Institute in New York she had worked as a curator, he as
a member of the board because of the organizations lack of enthusiasm
for Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, who had judged them to be
nothing more than passing fashions. In the eyes of these critics, the Dales
had bad taste. Were it now to appear they were the owners of a Van Gogh
forgery, they would have become a laughing stock. It was thus a stroke of
eminent luck that Self-Portrait at the Easel returned to New York in 1929
without a public scandal. After all, the Van Gogh exhibition in Voor de
Kunst had been a success, and the work had been widely praised in the
Dutch press by both critics and connoisseurs; De la Failles critique was
the only one to be reported in the American press, in December 1928. In
1929 Dale and the American critical community could still argue that his
opinion had turned out to be negligible. For the Americans, the uproar over
the pictures authenticity must have seemed little more than a tempest in a

Who Else Knew?

Did anyone else besides Dale, De Wild, and Scherjon know the outcome
of the analyses that had been carried out on the Self-Portrait in The Hague?
Perhaps someone from Scherjons circle, such as De Gruyter, Bremmer, Van
Deventer, or Krller-Mller?50 Nothing in De Gruyters publications at the
time or in his estate papers indicate he knew anything about the affair. The
information was probably kept from him. Bremmer, on the other hand,
must have known something. The seven vials containing paint samples
from the Wacker Van Goghs certainly point in this direction. The first two
columns in Table 2 reproduce De Wilds notes; the second two identify the
titles of the paintings and their owners.
Bremmer, owner of Haystacks by Moonlight, is the link between the chem-
ist De Wild and the collectors Krller-Mller, Dale, Wacker, and Scherjon.
As Table 2 indicates, De Wild had also analyzed Haystacks, again with a
negative result. We do not know exactly when he was asked to examine the
work. In November 1928 De Wild looked into Seascape at Saintes-Maries-
de-la-Mer and Two Poplars. In December he read De la Failles recipe for
quick-drying paint, and in February 1929 he could have become aware of

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Table 2 Notes on the vials containing paint samples from the Wacker Van
Goghs, as well as the identication of the paintings and their owners.
G= F Title Owner in 1929-1930
genuine number
F= fake
G F 418 Seascape at Saintes- H. Krller-Mller
G F ? (possibly Two Poplars W. Scherjon
F 639)
G F ?? F 385 Self-Portrait Matthiesen Gallery

F F 521 Self-Portrait Hugo Perls Gallery

Sir Robert Abdy (Paris)
F F 523 Self-Portrait at the Easel Chester Dale

F F 625bis Haystacks by Moonlight O. Wacker H.P. Bremmer

F F 691 The Sower Matthiesen Gallery Gertrud

Wolowsky G. Schweitzer
Sources for the owners: De la Faille 1928, 1930, 1939, 1970; De Wild n.d. (1932);
Feilchenfeldt 1989; Koldehoff 2002b; Zentralarchiv der Deutsche Museen zu

the analyses carried out at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, which had revealed
the addition of hardeners to the paintings in question. My contention is
that in the course of 1929-30, De Wild focused his attention on precisely
this issue, even discovering resin in the remaining five Wacker pictures.
Taking samples from nineteen works belonging to Vincent Willem Van
Gogh all of them in April and May 1929 during the exhibition at Voor
de Kunst provided him with a clear basis for comparison. Resin, added
to make paintings dry faster, is present in large quantities in the Wacker
Van Goghs. Van Gogh, on the other hand, as mentioned above, never added
anything to the paint to help it dry.
Did Bremmer, with his disdain for scientific analysis in matters of art,
pay any serious attention to De Wilds conclusions regarding his Haystacks?
It seems unlikely that they made much of an impression on him. At the
beginning of the public scandal surrounding the Wacker paintings he as-
cribed only a modest, subordinate role to chemical analysis. Empathy with

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the artist and the experience of what he called artistic emotion were for
him what determined if something was genuine or not. Nonetheless, the
results of De Wilds examination must have made things difficult for him,
as he soon undertook several attempts to dispose of the picture in question.
On 6 December, namely, Wacker offered the work first to Maud Dale, and
then five days later to Helene Krller-Mller.
Bremmer, as Wackers secretary Max Renkewitz wrote to Dale, could
not really afford the painting; Wacker therefore wanted to make use of
his contractual right to sell it to someone else. He wrote that both Meier-
Graefe and Bremmer would guarantee its authenticity. Could there be any
better recommendation for a work than that it came from the collection
of Bremmer, the greatest connoisseur of Van Gogh? Moreover, Renkewitz
wrote, Dr. A.M. de Wild had provided written technical evidence that it
was genuine. Krller-Mller received an identical letter, but with two ref-
erences that had not been included in the letter to Maud Dale. Renkewitz
hoped very much that Krller-Mller would acquire the canvas so that it
would remain in Europe rather than fall into the hands of American specu-
lators. Even the Wacker gallery was able to recognize a moral dilemma. In
addition, the letter to Krller-Mller unlike the one addressed to Dale
gives the pictures price: 7,500 dollars.52 Here one should remember that
only two years earlier Bremmer had paid 8,000 guilders (around 3,500 dol-
lars) for it.
Neither Dale nor Krller-Mller were interested in Wackers offer. In
the case of Krller-Mller, this may well have arisen from the fact that she
already had a work purchased some twenty years earlier that might
be considered the Haystacks twin, namely Rising Moon: Haycocks (F 735).
The mention of De Wild in the letter raises the question as to whether
Wacker was simply unaware of his analyses, or that it had been suggested
to him that the results had been positive. There is another possibility: De
Wild had hoped to spare Bremmer and had never told him the unwel-
come news regarding his Haystacks. This seems quite unlikely, however,
as De Wilds positive judgment on both the Seascape and Two Poplars had
been widely reported in the press. An affirmative outcome in the case of
Haystacks would have been a great help to Bremmer and his supporters in
their polemic against De la Faille, Justi, and others. The letters provide no
certainty about who knew the truth regarding Haystacks. What is certain

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is that Bremmer wanted to get rid of it, and that the offers made to Dale
and Krller-Mller were not his only efforts in this direction. In June
1931 the Hague Gallery dAudretsch, a regular partner of Bremmers, put a
canvas by Van Gogh up for sale entitled Moonlit Landscape, which was the
Haystacks by Moonlight under another name.53 In 1932 Huinck & Scherjon
held a sale exhibition of works by Van Gogh. 54 The catalogue comprised
six drawings, three watercolors, and thirteen paintings, all listed as being
from a private collection. Half of these certainly belonged to Bremmer:
four drawings, one watercolor, and six paintings among them Haystacks,
which once again failed to find a buyer. In 1941 Bremmer again tried to sell
it through dAudretsch, offering it for 30,000 guilders to the Rijksmuseum
Did Krller-Mller and her secretary and confidante Sam van Deventer
know about the negative results of De Wilds analyses of the Wacker Van
Goghs? As far as Van Deventer is concerned, there are no documents to
indicate he had any knowledge of the affair. It is possible that his personal
archive, which is not yet open to the public, might provide more infor-
mation. Four years after Krller-Mller was offered Haystacks, namely in
1933, he became the owner of a Van Gogh self-portrait (F 385), and some
insight into his knowledge about that picture could tell us more about
the role the various experts played in his decisions. It seems to me, how-
ever, very unlikely that he knew anything about De Wild and his exami-
Helene Krller-Mller certainly received no direct information in the
matter. She trusted Bremmer implicitly and relied entirely on his judg-
ment: I have never known him to make a mistake.56 His struggle for the
recognition of some of the Wacker pictures was also hers, and she lent
her support by actually acquiring one of the controversial canvases and by
showing interest in purchasing two others. At the same time, she believed
the Berlin police merited her full cooperation, thereby ignoring Bremmers
advice. She was thus not the exactly the right person to entrust with the
sensitive information garnered through De Wilds examinations. She could
not, however, have been entirely unaware of the schemes cooked up by
her advisor, restorer, and art dealer. At a certain point she must have had a
creeping feeling of being shut out, of being hoodwinked, as is indicated by
her statements in Van Deventers book Krller-Mller, de geschiedenis van

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een cultureel levenswerk: Forgeries are a topic of discussion, and for the
time being there is nothing but confusion among both laymen and con-
noisseurs. What is genuine according to one, is fake according to another;
contradictory opinions are defended with the utmost tenacity and, what is
worse, one always suspects an ulterior motive...57

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4 For arts sake

By November 1929, De la Faille had a year of turmoil behind him, all of it

having to do with Otto Wackers Van Goghs. The distribution of the Sup-
plment had not been greatly appreciated, although his published works
and letters do not suggest that this caused him undue suffering. On the
contrary, they reveal a certain intransigence quite in keeping with a man
who is sure of what he is doing and is seeking to redress the fraud of which
he has been such an unwilling instrument. His behavior was consistent
with the basic attitude he had shown earlier in articles about conflicts
of interest, forged Rembrandts, and expertise bureaus articles that had
made him a controversial figure in the art world. His newest dmarche, the
open struggle against fake Van Goghs, reinforced his reputation for being
There were experts and dealers who condemned his behavior and others
who praised it. One art dealer, who wished to remain anonymous, said the
following to a journalist upon the publication of the Supplment in No-
vember 1928: I find Mr. De la Failles attitude to be forthright and in full
accordance with the high reputation he enjoys in the field.1 De la Failles
detractors seized on the Supplment as proof of his incompetence: first he
includes the Wacker Van Goghs in a prestigious catalogue raisonn, then
he writes them all off within scarcely a year. This did not indicate serious
study or a firm grasp of the facts. The same people used his about-face to
cast doubts on his trustworthiness, pointing out that he had made financial
gains by providing the Wacker Van Goghs with certificates of authenticity.
In his own defense, he said he asked the same modest sum of 25 guilders for
each certificate, regardless of whether his assessment was positive or nega-
tive. There was no evidence of a conflict of interest, he claimed.

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Les faux Van Gogh
De la Failles aim in publishing the Supplment in December 1928 had been
to do a service to the buyers and sellers of Otto Wackers paintings while
securing his reputation as a trustworthy advisor. The unintended effect of
all the publicity was that sellers and buyers became timid. In 1929 he grew
increasingly convinced that as a Van Gogh expert his role was not limited
to the art trade. So he made up his mind to devote a book to the fake Van
Goghs, prompted by a desire to protect Van Goghs oeuvre. This blunt deci-
sion to call a spade a spade is a clear indication that idealism had entered
the fray. De la Faille had assigned himself the task of guarding this corner
of the cultural heritage from contamination. With the publication of his
Les faux Van Gogh (The False Van Goghs) in January 1930, which included
174 works that he regarded as definite forgeries, De la Faille was violating
an unwritten law of the art trade: that where questions of authenticity were
concerned, one should remain discreetly noncommittal.
De la Faille saw the book as inseparable from the rest of his Van Gogh
research. Its proportions, typography, layout, and illustrations were identi-
cal to those of the catalogue raisonn. Like the catalogue, it was published
in French, which assured him of an international readership. De la Faille
wrote that Les faux Van Gogh did not meet the goal of purifying Van Goghs
work. He had looked at so many false works that it was impossible to list
them all. He also mentioned a certain opposition to his efforts: the own-
ers were not eager to have their property publicly labeled as fake. But De
la Faille felt it was his duty to guard the work of the great master.2 In the
copy presented to the Engineer, he called the book a written challenge
to purify the oeuvre of the great master Vincent van Gogh, which meant
that it bore all the marks of the polemics from the year before. Neither
the content nor the tone seemed aimed at calming the Van Gogh experts,
for although De la Faille tactfully omitted the names of the owners of the
forged works, he made an exception for those belonging to Scherjon and
Krller-Mller. They must have been less than pleased to see how often
they were mentioned in the book.
By publishing this work, De la Faille set out to defend an ideal with the
hope of restoring his reputation as a trustworthy advisor. But he was also
trying to make himself look good by comparison. Those who were familiar
with the history of Otto Wackers Van Goghs knew that Ring and Feilchen-

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feldt of the Cassirer gallery in Berlin were the first to discover the forgeries.
In Les faux Van Gogh, De la Faille went overboard, making it seem as if he
had discovered the forgeries all by himself, although in his reports in Het
Volk and De Telegraaf of November 1928 (see Chapter 1) and Das Kunstblatt
in March 1929, he had noted that Feilchenfeldt was the first to doubt the
works authenticity.3
Les faux Van Gogh is not limited to the Otto Wacker gallery, about which
De la Faille had been publishing for a year. He also writes about forged
paintings that he had come across during his search for works by Van Gogh
in Western Europe but are not included in the catalogue raisonn, such
as those owned by Thodore Duret, author of the prestigious Histoire des
peintres impressionnistes (1878) which went through many printings and
translations and a monograph about Van Gogh.4 Duret was a collector
and friend of the French Impressionists, and he wrote certificates of au-
thenticity that many regarded as infallible. But among the paintings in his
estate were many forgeries, including still lifes that were signed Vincent.
De la Faille believed that Duret was clean. He reveals the provenance of the
contested canvases a certain Proux in Asnires and writes that he had
seen dozens of fake Van Goghs by the same forger, all of them still lifes. In
1930, Durets Van Goghs graced the walls of dealers and collectors alike.
In Les faux Van Gogh, the 30 forgeries that went into circulation via the
Otto Wacker gallery are prominently featured. De la Failles discussion of
the Wacker Van Goghs is historical and stylistic. His main arguments for re-
jecting the paintings are based on Vincents letters and on comparisons with
the paintings and drawings that the forgers used as models, which is why
these examples are pictured in Les faux Van Gogh. He relates Wackers story
about the provenance of the canvases: the anonymous Russian who feared
that his family might run into trouble with the Soviet authorities and who
claimed that the paintings had come from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. De
la Faille does not mention that there was no indication of a sale of 30 paint-
ings to a Russian collector among the papers of Jo Van Gogh-Bonger. This
information had already been given to him in March 1928 by the Engineer,
and it would prove very helpful.
De la Faille steers clear of the scientic arguments, such as those provided
by De Wild in December 1928, in support of the authenticity of Seascape
and Two Poplars, which had been repeated in the press again and again ever

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since. De la Faille probably thought that the formula he had published for
paint-hardening agents, which could not be detected by means of chemical
analysis, negated the value of such arguments. Nor did he discuss the find-
ings of the Nationalgaleries technical examination.
De la Faille rejected Chester Dales Self-Portrait at the Easel on pure sty-
listic grounds. Bremmer may have thought it was one of the masters most
beautiful portraits, and Scherjon claimed to have found proof of authen-
ticity in Vincents letters, but De la Faille remained unconvinced by either
argument. De la Faille does not identify the owner, just as he refrains from
citing the names of Bremmer and Matthiesen as owners of Haystacks and
Self-Portrait, respectively.
The same was not true of Two Poplars and Seascape. In his discussion
of Two Poplars, De la Faille supplies the name of the owner: Scherjon. He
regards Scherjons efforts to prove authenticity by means of Vincents letters
as too flimsy, and he rejects the canvas with a reference to the controversy
in the NRC. Turning to Seascape, he writes, This painting is based on
drawing F 1431. Let us give credit where credit is due. It is a very beauti-
ful painting, but it is not by Van Gogh. According to De la Faille, the
forger falls short because of his inadequate knowledge of the palette and
brushstrokes Vincent used in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. He concludes with
the remark, This fake Van Gogh is now part of the collection of Mrs. H.
Krller-Mller, The Hague. The Dutch expert H.P. Bremmer regards it as a
genuine painting by Van Gogh.5 It is as though De la Faille were trying to
excuse not only the buyer but also her advisor for the purchase. It may be
a fake, but it is still a beautiful painting. By adding the comment about
credit where credit is due, he includes himself in the unknown forgers
successful deception. And for good reason, for although he does not say so,
this work was one of the three paintings that he had sold in early 1928 in the
Netherlands; after its spuriousness was established, he took it back and re-
turned it to Wacker. It was an amiable mea culpa, but if De la Faille thought
these words would sweeten the bitter pill for the buyer and her associates,
he was quite mistaken. They clung to their conviction that Krller-Mller
had added an original Van Gogh to her collection. De la Faille also chal-
lenges the authenticity of other paintings that had been declared genuine
by her advisor Bremmer, and he speaks of his faithful and stiff-necked
disciplines.6 This was no way to make friends.

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The publication of a book about the forgeries of the work by a master is
unique. It was true in 1930, and to a certain extent it has always been true.
Search any bibliography of Dutch art experts from that period for compilers
of catalogues raisonns of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, or other artists who
also published overviews of forged works, and you search in vain. Granted,
there have been art connoisseurs who devoted themselves to problems of at-
tribution, such as Frits Lugt with his Rembrandt: Ses lves, ses imitateurs, ses
copistes (1935) and Maurits van Dantzig with his provocative Frans Hals: echt
of onecht (1937), but they did not compile catalogues of these masters. One
undisputed exception is the famous Rembrandt Research Project started
in 1968, which concerned itself with works mistakenly attributed to Rem-
brandt. The focus of this book, however, is not on technical questions of
an art historical nature (about which the current writer pleads ignorance),
but on finding an explanation for why so many people avoid reporting what
they see and examine as soon as they realize that the conclusions might be
painful for others in the art world. Part of the answer lies in the trials and
tribulations encountered by De la Faille with Les faux Van Gogh.

The reactions to Les faux Van Gogh run from the loftiest praise to the deep-
est contempt. De la Faille received compliments from Schmidt Degener,
director of the Rijksmuseum, who wrote to him, It is so easy to remain
silent under such circumstances. If you had not taken action, this falsifi-
cation would have gone on endlessly, and what the following generations
would have thought about Van Gogh is a mystery to me.7 Numerous crit-
ics reacted similarly. Art critic Jo Zwartendijk reminded the readers of the
NRC that De la Faille had openly admitted his mistakes in 1928, a gesture
for which he was reviled in every possible way. The fact is that we do not
live in a world that shows much respect for people with courage, people
who acknowledge their faults.8 The Burlington Magazine called it a remark-
able book, the Sunday Times said it was of inestimable value, the Illustrated
London News praised De la Faille for his courage in stirring up such a
hornets nest, and upon his skill in waging war with such deadly effect
and the Haarlem art dealer J.H. de Bois called it a chronique scandaleuse
of a misguided Van Gogh cult but also noted that without all the fuss sur-


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rounding Otto Wacker, Seascape would have been taken for a genuine work
by Vincent. De Telegraaf said, If the art trade wants to continue as a genu-
ine business, it will have to start fighting an energetic battle all across the
board. At the present moment, catalogues of forgeries are just as necessary
as catalogues of genuine paintings.9
Other critics were more reserved in their comments about De la Failles
list of fake Van Goghs. International Studio praised the book but was not
convinced that all the Wacker Van Goghs were forgeries.10 In Journal des
dbats, the reviewer applauded De la Faille for heeding his conscience, but
with misgivings: All well and good! But is Mr. de la Faille infallible? He
then reasoned: if the catalogue raisonn presented fake works as authentic,
could there not be authentic works in Les faux Van Gogh that are regarded
as fake?11 It was a point that would be repeated again and again by Dutch
De Gruyter wrote to Zwartendijk and told her how astonished he was
by her praise of De la Faille in the NRC. She has been fooled, he said. Les
faux Van Gogh is one of the most deceitful documents ever written.12 De
Gruyter went on to modify his views in the NRC, and later in Elseviers Gel-
lustreerd Maandschrift, but always with a petulant tone.13 How, he wrote,
could De la Failles inaccuracies continue to be published? Why do news-
papers repeat his groundless charge of stubbornness against his detractors?
How could De la Faille continue to defy the authority of Bremmer, Have-
laar, Meier-Graefe, and others? Critics without exception have declared
Self-Portrait authentic, wrote De Gruyter; in fact, a number of them regard
it as among Van Goghs most beautiful works. Views on the authenticity
of Two Poplars were equally unanimous. How could De la Faille dare to in-
sist that it was forged, despite Scherjons close reading of Van Goghs letters,
even despite the scientific paint analysis by none other than Dr. A.M. de
Wild, among others.14 It is not Bremmer who is stubborn but De la Faille,
who refuses to see that a portion of the Wacker Van Goghs are authentic.
It was courageous of De la Faille to acknowledge his own mistakes, but ac-
cording to De Gruyter, Les faux Van Gogh was no cause for jubilation.15 Art
historian Elie Faure, who owned a drawing by Van Gogh, was also bitter in
his accusations of De la Faille. Faures drawing was listed as authentic in the
catalogue raisonn and now it was among the fakes in Les faux. De la Faille,
he said, was capricious.16

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After reading this criticism, De la Faille no doubt felt that his prophecy
was being fulfilled: that the struggle for the real Van Gogh was continu-
ing. He must have realized that it would not be limited to polemics, and
that it would not be conducted by means of substantive arguments alone;
the interests were far too great for that. By publishing Les faux Van Gogh
he was ratcheting up the intensity of the dispute that he had conducted so
confidently in the newspapers and magazines in 1928 and 1929. But Brem-
mer and Scherjon, who felt that he had attacked their own interests, had
political and material support at their disposal that was not available to De
la Faille. At the heart of this support were Mr. and Mrs. Krller.

The Krllers
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Anton G. Krller was one of the
most successful businessmen in the Netherlands. As director of the firm
of Wm. H. Mller & Co., he had managed to extend the commercial ac-
tivities of his German father-in-law to Africa and South America. The firm
had interests in transport to England (the Batavia Line) and in the mining

. Anton Krller in around . . Helene Krller-Mller in around .

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industry in Spain, Sweden, and Algeria. Krller had offices at one of the
most chic locations in The Hague the Lange Voorhout and lived with
his wife, Helene Krller-Mller, and their children in the mansion known
as Huize ten Vijver. With stables, a garage (they were among the first to
own an automobile), and accommodations for the personnel, Huize ten
Vijver offered a suitable environment for hosting the business and politi-
cal elite from the Netherlands as well as those from abroad. The Krllers
were involved in the Boer War and became friends with the South African
statesman M.T. Steyn and General Christiaan de Wet. Their wealth enabled
them to lend considerable sums to others, including H.A. van Karnebeek,
the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs.17
During the Great War, the couples sympathies were with the Germans.
Krller was an esteemed guest of the German government; he enjoyed con-
versing with Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg, the de facto rul-
ers of the empire. In August 1914, Mrs. Krller-Mller rushed to the Belgian
front to nurse German soldiers, but she found the work too demanding and
within two weeks she was back in The Hague. Krller was one of the found-
ers of the Nederlandse Overzee Trustmaatschappij (the Netherlands Over-
seas Trust Company, or NOT), which worked to maintain foreign trade.
The British naval blockade and Germanys control of the Rhine threatened
to strangle the Netherlands. Krller traded in foodstuffs, coal, and iron ore,
which gave his business a political dimension that was vital for the Nether-
lands as well as risky. The NOT succeeded in its purpose, but Krller also
managed to serve generous portions to himself and to the German govern-
ment. As a grain purchaser for the Dutch and German governments, he
earned millions, secretly acting as a grain agent, credit broker, and spy.18
The British distrusted him.
Krllers commercial success enabled him to buy country estates in Was-
senaar and the forested Veluwe region in the eastern Netherlands, which
he used for horseback riding and hunting. The small farmers living on
De Hoge Veluwe were forced off the land and their houses demolished.
The property was fenced in so the Krllers and their associates could stroll
about undisturbed. At the hands of Krller and Hendrik van Mecklenburg-
Schwerin, Queen Wilhelminas spouse, many of the local wildlife ended
their lives in the service of the hunt. When the prince consorts amorous
excursions got him into financial difficulties, the Dutch government and

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the court called on Krller to clean things up. During the twenties Krller
was able to keep the prince out of bankruptcy.19
Back to 1905. That was when the Krllers became acquainted with Brem-
mer. Listening to his lectures, Mrs. Krller-Mller developed a passion for
collecting art. Her husband financed the purchases. In a hundred years
time, she said, she wanted their art collection to be an interesting monu-
ment to culture, proof of the extent to which a merchant family at the
turn of the century could achieve intrinsic refinement. It will be a museum
more natural and lively than had ever been shown before.20 During a visit
to Florence, she wrote to her husband about the Palazzo Vecchio of the il-
lustrious Medici family, with its crown and tower rising far above the city,
and how it can be seen from far and wide, and yet was not built by kings
but by ordinary people.21
The example of Renaissance power brokers proved infectious. Her hus-
band hired a series of architects L.J. Falkenberg, Peter Behrens, Ludwig
Mies van der Rohe, H.P. Berlage, A.J. Kropholler, and Henry van de Velde
and their staffs to build offices, houses, and a museum. Mrs. Krller-Mller
in turn spent the next 15 years building up an impressive art collection. A
list of works, far from comprehensive, includes paintings from the sixteenth

. One of the display rooms at Wm. H. Mller & Zn. on the Lange Voorhout in the

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and seventeenth centuries by Hendrik Avercamp, Jan van Goyen, Tintoret-
to, Hans Baldung Grien, and Lucas Cranach; paintings and drawings from
the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century
by Anton Derkinderen, Theo van Doesburg, Paul Gabril, Matthijs Maris,
Joseph Mendes da Costa, Floris Verster, Piet Mondriaan, Pablo Picasso,
Claude Monet, Charley Toorop, and Bart van der Leck. In short, this was
a private collection comprising hundreds of pieces of ancient and modern
art, the likes of which were unknown in the Netherlands of the 1910s and
20s. Bremmers preferences can be seen in the collection as a whole, and
his influence on the choices made was such that the collection really should
have been called the Krller-Mller-Bremmer collection.22
The dazzling heart of this collectors passion was Vincent van Gogh. The
couple owned more of his paintings and drawings almost 150 works than
of any other artist. Helene Krller-Mller saw his work as the hub of mod-
ern art: many roads led to it and many emanated from it, something she was
finally able to express in the floor plan of the museum on De Hoge Veluwe,
where the rooms with the Van Goghs form the core of the building. By the
mid-twenties, the estimated value of the entire art collection was about

. The Krllers Van Gogh collection on the Lange Voorhout.

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five million guilders. Designs for a museum to house the art collection
were submitted by Berlage and Behrens, but these were rejected. Finally
Henry van de Velde came up with a design for a museum that met with
their approval. Helene Krller-Mller was passionate when it came to art.
Victorine Hefting, who was given the job of documenting the collection in
1934, wrote about her: She exhibited a remarkable combination of arrogant
severity, detachment, and authoritarianism with a certain idealism that was
focused only on beauty, human tolerance, and noble motives, which she
thought you must possess when looking at works of art.23 She shared with
Bremmer an inability to brook contradiction.
The economic recession of the thirties did not leave the firm of Wm. H.
Mller & Co. unaffected. Funding for the collection had to be cut back
drastically, Bremmers position as a paid advisor was terminated in 1932
and the building of the museum was postponed. But the picture of the
economic decline of Krller the businessman provided by Krller-Mllers
secretary Van Deventer in his book of 1956, from which some of the infor-
mation is derived, is incomplete.24 In 1988, Wennekes wrote that it was not
the recession that caused the firm to totter but embezzlement. He quotes an
accountant from the Mller firm: Eighty percent of the losses had nothing
to do with the depression. Eighty percent of the losses were caused by in-
competence, flagrant dishonesty, and deception.25 It never came to a legal
investigation of the firm or of Krller himself, but Krllers behavior threat-
ened the survival of De Rotterdamsche Bank, his most important creditor.
The Dutch state, and Minister of Finance Hendrik Colijn in particular,
shielded the bank and thereby Krller by providing credit to the tune of
tens of millions of guilders.26
In 1928 the Krller-Mller Foundation was established, with Mrs. Krller-
Mller, Van Deventer, and a government representative as the board of
directors. The decline of Wm. Mller & Co. and the establishment of the
foundation, which would administer the Krllers art collection, are closely
connected. According to the ocial history, the goal was to house gradually
the collection of some 800 paintings, 5,000 drawings, and 275 sculptures in a
national museum on De Hoge Veluwe and thereby to preserve it for the people
of the Netherlands. It sounds like an act of altruism. The establishment of the
foundation can also be seen as a deal, however, between Krller and the Dutch
government. If Krllers company were to go bankrupt, this structure would

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keep his art objects from automatically being put on the market. The form a
foundation with a government representative on the board obviates such
a sale without the approval or prior knowledge of the government. The ap-
proximately ve million guilders that the collection represented in 1928 was
entirely out of proportion with the tens of millions that the government spent
to keep Wm. Mller & Co. aoat, but it represents enormous value all the
same.27 During the twenties, the Dutch government appealed to the Krller-
Mllers on several occasions to contribute to foreign exhibitions.

In January 1930, the Friends of Vincent van Gogh and His Time submitted
to the city of Amsterdam a plan by De la Faille to organize an exhibition in
the Stedelijk Museum on the 40th anniversary of Vincent van Goghs death.
De la Failles proposal was to show 125 works by modern French painters,
grouped around 75 works by Van Gogh, mainly from his French period.28
The first list of paintings by Van Gogh that De la Faille wanted to request
for the exhibition is quite interesting: a total of 75 works, 22 of which had
Dutch owners. Not a single painting on his list was from the Krllers col-
lection. The Van Goghs owned by her advisor Bremmer more than 70
works were absent as well. De la Faille told alderman Eduard Polak of Art
Affairs he thought it was unlikely that all the paintings on the list would
be obtained. In that case, a secondary selection might be made from the
Krller-Mller collection.
In February 1930 the city of Amsterdam and the Ministry of Education,
Arts, and Sciences made funding available for the organization, transport,
and insurance of the exhibition. The commissioning authorities wanted a
large, representative exhibition that was worthy of this great Dutchman.
But Polak insisted on equal representation for both Van Gogh and his con-
temporaries, not the preponderance of contemporaries that De la Faille had
proposed. The alderman wanted at least a hundred works by Van Gogh to
be shown.29
In the months that followed, De la Faille visited countless collectors, art
dealers, and museums in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany,
asking for paintings to be placed on loan. He had little luck. Not all the
works he wanted to exhibit were made available to him. Then the alderman

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changed his mind: instead of an exhibition with an equal proportion of Van
Goghs and works by his contemporaries, he wanted an exhibition focused
entirely on Van Gogh. Of the 200 exhibited paintings, 150 would have to be
by Van Gogh a reversal of the proportion originally proposed. De la Faille
did the math and realized that somehow he would have to borrow about 75
more Van Gogh paintings, but the aldermans demand came at a time when
many of the owners were bowing out. Their excuses were plausible enough:
the requested work had been promised to another exhibition, or it had done
a great deal of traveling and was in need of restoration, or it had been away
too long and the owner missed seeing it every day. Some refused for vague
reasons, but a few hinted at an aversion to supporting the exhibition in this
way. The collector A. Hahnloser was quite frank in his letter to the Stedelijk
Museum: Because of Mr. de la Failles incomprehensible behavior toward
me and other collectors in publishing Les faux Van Gogh we must regretfully
decline your request.30
By late May, some two months before the opening, De la Faille had
been promised about 50 works. Searching for solutions, he thought of his
relationship with the Engineer. After all, the Engineer had inherited more
than 200 Van Gogh paintings from his father, Theo van Gogh. He could be
asked to make a much larger contribution to the exhibition. But there was
yet another possibility: the 75-painting shortfall was almost equal to the size
of the Krller-Mller Van Gogh collection. The most we could hope for
would be for her to allow her entire collection of Van Goghs to be shown
in the Stedelijk Museum en bloc, De la Faille told his fellow committee
members. It was a rhetorical comment that he himself was quick to dismiss.
The collection had already been shown so often, he said, both in the Neth-
erlands and abroad. Furthermore, the nature of her Van Gogh collection,
with its large number of works from the Dutch period, was not in keeping
with the plan for the exhibition in the Stedelijk as formulated by the state
and the city, which was supposed to concentrate on Van Goghs French
period. To show her entire collection would throw the plan off balance.
Surely Mrs. Krller would never allow our organization to pick and choose
works from her collection, he concluded. De la Faille failed to point out
that the Engineers property had also been seen regularly in the Netherlands
and abroad. It was obvious: De la Faille did not want to have to travel to the
Krller-Mllers collection on the Lange Voorhout in The Hague.


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De la Faille had good reasons for his pessimism. Displaying Seascape
in the Stedelijk Museum without reservations would be seen as tacit rec-
ognition of the paintings authenticity. By excluding Krller-Mller from
his exhibition plan at the very beginning, he must have wanted to avoid
a confrontation over authenticity similar to the one that had taken place
the year before between Ludwig Justi and Krller-Mller at the Van Gogh
exhibition in the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin.
De la Faille tried asking the Engineer for more paintings and was given
47 in addition to the 22 canvases already promised. But alderman Polak had
his mind set on the Krller-Mller collection. He visited her in The Hague
but came away empty-handed. Rather than appeal to Engineer Van Gogh
for paintings, as De la Faille had done, he decided to notify the exhibitions
other commissioning authority, the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sci-
ences. In early June, Mrs. Krller-Mller received a delegation of heavy-
weights consisting of Polak, alderman for Education and the Arts; Mrs. H.
van Dam van Isselt, head of the Department of Art Affairs for the city of
Amsterdam; P. Visser, head of the Department of Arts and Sciences for the
Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences; and D.C. Rell, curator of the
Rijksmuseum. Their purpose was to induce her to cooperate. A compro-
mise was reached. As Rell wrote to De la Faille, The result is gratifying.
The tamed shrew agreed to exhibit her collection of Van Goghs in separate
rooms, but not cut off from the other submissions.31
All De la Faille had to do was accept this result: not a selection from her
collection by the Friends of Vincent van Gogh and His Time, or by him
as curator, but a decision to show her entire collection, including Seascape,
forced by the city and the ministry, the exhibitions commissioning author-
ity. Why did the government act this way? Why couldnt they be satisfied
with a smaller exhibition? If they really wanted a large exhibition, why not
turn to the Engineer? Were they reluctant to fuel the rivalry that existed
between Krller-Mller and the Van Gogh family, probably based on their
separate collections? Or did it have something to do with the deal the gov-
ernment had struck with Krller? The sources provide no clear answer to
these questions, but they do suggest that the authorities did not want to get
involved in any conflicts that would be fought out in the newspapers, as the
Otto Wacker controversy had been the year before. This thesis that the
government acted the way it did in order not to disturb the status quo is

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. Seascape at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (F ), x . cm, Krller-Mller
Museum. Helene Krller-Mller was always convinced that she had added a genuine
Van Gogh to her collection in .

in keeping with the attitude of political authorities toward demonstrations

of a symbolic or nationalistic character. A show of unity is essential. Differ-
ences must be eschewed.
The actions of the government representatives (curator Rell acting as
the ministers official representative on the board of the exhibition) suggest,
probably unintentionally, that all the paintings were thought to be genuine.
Apparently the size, commercial value, and quality of the Krller-Mller
collection was so influential that they did not think it was necessary to
agonize over the possible presence of a single forgery. The city was not at
all condent that the dispute with De la Faille would remain concealed. De
la Faille still hoped to prove himself right by oering his catalogue and Les
faux Van Gogh for sale at the exhibition, but history does not tell us if he
succeeded. The authorities must have feared he would undertake some kind
of action, because Polak advised the deputy mayor, F.M. Wibaut, to keep De


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la Faille in the background during the press conference: It would be best if
he didnt come at all and sent the information in writing.32 The motto was:
no controversy in the press about the exhibition. It was a vote against De la
Faille and in favor of Krller-Mller.

The gallery Huinck & Scherjon had much less power over the exhibition or-
ganizers than Krller-Mller, as is clear from the disagreement that emerged
regarding the gallerys Two Poplars. In early June, the gallery issued a press
release containing a few laudatory remarks from the newspapers about Two
Poplars as well as the results of research carried out by J.C.M. Garnier of
the Utrecht police departments dactyloscopic services, which was said to
confirm the works authenticity. Garnier had discovered that fingerprints
found on the canvas were the same as those allegedly found on uncontested
Van Goghs from the Krller-Mller collection.33 An anonymous writer in
the NRC challenged the validity of the proof: no registered fingerprints of
Van Gogh exist, and the prints could just as easily have come from someone
else. But the NRC editorial staff supported Scherjons reasoning that the
fingerprints were proof of legitimacy.34
For Scherjon, the fingerprints and the NRCs acceptance were new
weapons in the struggle, which was taken up by others in order to prove
De la Failles error. In my estimation, wrote De Gruyter, it would be
difficult to find evidence more concrete than an authentic-looking thumb-
print. 35 By contrast, a critic from De Haagsche Post was unimpressed by
the fingerprint investigation, although he did find De Wilds research on
the 40-year age of the paint compelling. That proved beyond a shadow
of a doubt that the canvas must be Vincent van Goghs: Anyone who
has studied Van Gogh in depth will find peculiarities in Two Poplars that
no one but Van Gogh could have set down with such passion. There ex-
ists another sense, moreover a nameless one of which the expert avails
himself, and though it may not be scientific it is still of value. 36 A few
weeks later Bremmer wrote an article in his magazine Beeldende Kunst
praising the painting: The way the trees are rendered in that quavering
gyration of lines almost suggests something orchestral. And despite all this
wildness and turbulence there is still a subdued quality; after all, it was

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made by someone who still had control over himself in the midst of all his
passion. 37
Two board members of the Friends of Vincent van Gogh Rell and
Baard, director of the Stedelijk Museum paid a visit to Huinck & Scher-
jon in early August and asked the gallery to collaborate in the exhibition.
They made a selection of works by Van Gogh and by his contemporaries
Jongkind, Gauguin, and Signac. The selection included Two Poplars. De
la Faille was willing to borrow the paintings by the contemporaries, but
not this Wacker Van Gogh. He threatened to withdraw as organizer and to
cause a scandal if this forgery were admitted to the exhibition. Baard and
Rell relented and justified the rejection to the alderman with the argument
that accepting it might give rise to renewed controversy in newspapers and
magazines.38 Upon hearing this, Huinck & Scherjon, who also wanted to
see their disputed Van Gogh hang in the Stedelijk Museum, refused to place
any of their paintings on loan.39 The difference between the treatment of
the Krllers and the art dealers Huinck and Scherjon is undeniable.
The art world expected a great deal from the size and quality of the exhibi-
tion, but there were dissonant voices as well. De Gids awaited the exhibition
with horror. It had nothing to do with the artist Van Gogh and everything
to do with people trying to enhance their own fame: Onanists of the spirit
[...]. They have made an idol for their Vincent cult that looks as much like
Van Gogh as the pastry busts of Beethoven resembled Beethoven.40 The
publicity around Les faux Van Gogh, the damage to the interests of Huinck
& Scherjon, newspaper coverage of Garniers ngerprint investigation, and
the skepticism of De Gids were omens that the exhibition was not going to
result in the universal agreement desired by the authorities.

On 6 September 1930, the Stedelijk Museum opened its doors for the ex-
hibition Vincent van Gogh en zijn tijdgenoten (Vincent van Gogh and His
Contemporaries). It was a major event. The newspapers reported the pres-
ence of authorities of every stripe: members of the upper and lower houses
of parliament, representatives of the Amsterdam city council, officers of the
army and navy, the French ambassador, artists, and prominent persons from
the business community and the cultural world. Alderman Polak, Minister


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J. Terpstra, and deputy mayor Wibaut gave introductory speeches; there
was glowing praise for the dead master, and expressions of gratitude for
Krller-Mller and the Engineer. De la Faille was also present, contrary to
Polaks wishes, and he was drawn into the limelight as well by Polak.
The public was able to view 374 works by Van Gogh and almost 180 by
his contemporaries. Three catalogues were on oer: one from the Krller-
Mller Foundation and two from the Stedelijk Museum. The two from the
Stedelijk were a catalogue of the remaining part of the exhibition and a cata-
logue containing a brief summary of the works shown, without illustrations.
The Krller-Mller catalogue described the 253 works in the collection and
included reproductions of sixteen paintings, one of which was Seascape. De
la Failles catalogue raisonn, with F numbers, had already found acceptance
as a work of reference at art sales and exhibitions, but not in this Krller-
Mller catalogue. Every reference to De la Failles work was omitted, and all
253 works were numbered according to a system used by the Krller-Mller

. September , . J. Terpstra, Minister of Education, Art and Science, and the

alderman for Art Aairs in Amsterdam, Eduard Polak, at the opening of the Vincent
van Gogh exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

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Willem Scherjon died in 1938. The following year, the second edition of De
la Failles Van Gogh catalogue raisonn was published in English, German,
and French. It was devoted exclusively to the paintings.20 In the preface De
la Faille wonders whether such a work will ever be completed. The answer is
negative. All of us, he says, are still too close to Van Gogh, and we have our
opinions as to what is genuine and what is fake, which we want to defend
at any price: Only with the passage of time, as passions cool and personal
feelings are silenced, will each painting find its true place.
The catalogue is a fully researched work, with provenance, exhibitions,
and literature listed in addition to the illustrations. It is somewhat surpris-
ing that De la Faille now recognized as genuine seven of the nine Wacker
Van Goghs that Bremmer had pronounced as such two more than those
included in his court testimony of 1932: Van Beuningens Cypresses (F 614)
and Van Deventers Self-Portrait (F 385). Now he differed from his former
rivals on only one canvas, The Reaper, the painting that the police had
confiscated from Leonhard Wackers studio in 1929 and that De la Faille
had not listed in his catalogue but in Les faux Van Gogh. It is not included
in the 1939 edition either. He also omitted Landscape (F 824), as Scherjon
and De Gruyter had done. A piquant detail: De la Failles list of owners for
Two Poplars includes Kunsthandel Huinck & Scherjon and Private col-
lection, Japan. His own brief period of ownership (he bought the canvas
from Huinck & Scherjon in 1935 and sold it at a profit) is unmentioned.21
The reader searches in vain for a clear explanation behind the change in
De la Failles assessment of the Wacker Van Goghs. The organization of the
catalogue is rather strange in this regard. Six of the Wacker Van Goghs are
not numbered among the other canvases but are shown together in the back
of the book on pages 554 through 556. De la Failles comment reads as fol-
lows: Contrary to what I said in my book Les faux Van Gogh, I now regard
the following numbers as paintings from Van Goghs own hand. They are
from the Wacker collection in Berlin. Dutch experts such as Messrs. H.P.
Bremmer, W. Scherjon, W.J. de Gruyter, etc., share my opinion. As for the
German experts, they regard all the paintings from the Wacker gallery as
fakes.22 (I am overlooking the fact that the German expert Rosenhagen
steadfastly insisted that Two Poplars was a real Van Gogh, but De la Faille is
probably referring to the experts from the Nationalgalerie.) They share my


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opinion is a turn of phrase that sounds a bit ludicrous, now that we know
the history: as if De la Faille had passed judgment on his own, based on
reasonable grounds, which was then endorsed by his former detractors. But
why did he set these six paintings apart? Why did he mention the German
experts seven years after the Wacker trial? And why did he place a seventh
Wacker Van Gogh, of all things Bremmers Haystacks (F 625bis) along
with the rest of the paintings in the catalogue according to number? It is
shown on page 435 among the paintings that Vincent would have made
in September 1889 during his stay in Saint-Rmy. De la Failles comment
on Haystacks is intriguing: According to German experts the painting is a
forgery. The authors of the book Van Goghs hoofdperiode, W. Scherjon and
W.J. de Gruyter, are somewhat in doubt as to its authenticity.23
Unlike Scherjon and De Gruyters catalogue, here Bremmer is named as
the owner of the painting. He would not have been thrilled to see it. He
must have wondered why De la Faille was not able to omit these damaging
remarks. Persistent doubts about the authenticity of a canvas threaten to
make it unmarketable. His fears were not exaggerated: despite Bremmers
attempts to sell it, the canvas would remain in his possession until his death.
Back to De la Failles comment that Scherjon and De Gruyter are some-
what in doubt as to its [Haystacks] authenticity. Why did he content him-
self with this very brief statement? He was not in full agreement with their
judgments. Scherjon and De Gruyter declared as fake Daubignys Garden
(F 776), Justis controversial purchase for the Nationalgalerie, simply by
omitting it from their so-called comprehensive catalogue. De la Faille de-
fended the paintings authenticity and inveighed against their omission. De
la Faille could be very demanding when the situation called for it. Is it not
possible that his decision to repeat Scherjon and De Gruyters stylistic anal-
ysis of Haystacks was not at all based on what they wrote in their catalogue?
Did Scherjon tell him something in confidence that both Scherjon and De
Gruyter, as well De la Faille himself, only dared to present in an ambiguous
Whether Scherjon discussed the canvas with De la Faille cannot be con-
firmed unequivocally, but there is an indication that someone informed De
la Faille of the negative results of the paint analysis of Haystacks. Although
it cannot be found in any published document or letter, De la Failles own,
preserved copy of the catalogue of 1928 contains deletions and additions


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that he made page by page, including annotations that throw an unexpected
light on what probably took place behind the scenes. As we say, the devil is
in the details. In the margins next to the entries for two Wacker Van Goghs,
De la Faille added words that do not appear with any other Wacker Van
Gogh in the catalogue: bij de Wild with De Wild.
The first canvas with these three words is The Sower (F 691), one of the
five Wackers in which De Wild had found resin and that Bremmer, Scher-
jon, and De la Faille had consistently declared as fake starting in 1928:
they never openly disagreed about its authenticity. The second canvas with

. De la Failles annotations for Haystacks (F bis), owned by Bremmer. On the left,

in pencil and crossed out: bij de Wild (with De Wild).

. De la Failles annotations for The Sower (F ). On the left, in pencil: bij de



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bij de Wild written beside it (and then crossed out) is Bremmers paint-
ing Haystacks. As we now know, De Wild had also found resin there and
had established the work as a forgery on those grounds. Perhaps Scherjon
had dropped a few hints to De la Faille. First denounce as fake a painting
in which neither man had any idealistic or material interest, then expose
the forged painting belonging to an authority whom they dared not attack
directly. De la Faille would have had little trouble tripping up the man
who had been making his life miserable since 1928. But then why not reject
the canvas in his own words? The reason may be that in doing so De la
Faille would have jeopardized his credibility. Within a period of ten years
he would have declared Haystacks as genuine (January 1928), fake (Novem-
ber 1982), genuine (April 1932), and then fake again (1939). Scherjon, too,
would have sacrificed a great deal of credibility if he had called the painting
a forgery: in the struggle against De la Faille, and in his statements before
the Berlin judges, he had consistently called it genuine. Hence a compro-
mise by way of stylistic analysis that was just as effective in striking at Brem-
mers material interests. The damage to the paintings reputation was a fact.
But what would Scherjon and De Gruyters motive have been?

The critic De Gruyter defended Bremmer and Scherjons position on the
Wacker Van Goghs in the newspapers, and made their viewpoints his own,
until 1933. After that year, an estrangement can be detected between him
and Bremmer, who was almost 30 years his senior. In a letter to the painter
Aart van Dobbenburgh, written in 1935, De Gruyter ventilated his feelings
about Bremmer and all his quibbling and called him a narrow-minded
hypocrite.24 De Gruyters exasperation with Bremmer came to light in
April 1937 and became the driving force behind an out-and-out controversy
in Het Vaderland that dragged on for weeks. De Gruyter had become one
of that newspapers permanent staff members. The dispute began rather in-
nocently. In a review of an exhibition at the Nieuwenhuizen Segaar Gallery
in The Hague, De Gruyter had some critical things to say about the work
of Charley Toorop, a protge of Bremmer, but De Gruyter did not expect
Bremmers followers to have any difficulties with her work because it was
an artistic product recognized by Mr. Bremmer.25 The remark did not go


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down well with many readers. The newspaper published letter after letter,
and De Gruyter faithfully answered each one. Gradually he became more
and more critical of Bremmers demeanor, his doctrinaire approach, and
conflict of interest. At first De Gruyter piously insisted that he had noth-
ing personal against Bremmer (although in the letter to Van Dobbenburgh
he candidly admitted his hatred toward the man), but he did denounce
his dictatorial influence on his followers purchasing patterns and artis-
tic perception: Apparently the world has need of its Stalins and Musso-
linis, which is as noticeable inside the realm of art as outside.26 It was not
the kind of comparison that would have brought the letter-writers and De
Gruyter closer together, but that may not have been his intention.
Jan Engelman supported De Gruyter in De Groene Amsterdammer and
also accused Bremmer of a conflict of interest: No one would ever insist
that a critic ought not to own one of the objects he writes about with so
much interest and love, as long as he acquires it in an honorable way. Like-
wise, no one would deny the critic the right to sell something he owns if he
finds it necessary. As long as it doesnt happen in such a way that the artist
sees the critic as a marchand gant, a man who appropriates the profits to
which the artist is entitled. So to create an honest situation and to avoid
temptation, the critic is perhaps well-advised not to fill his house with
works of art from the rafters to the back wall of the bathroom.27 Finally,
Bremmers admirers turned to the directors and commissioners of Het Vad-
erland and demanded that De Gruyter be dismissed, but De Gruyter man-
aged to avert this catastrophe by offering a humble apology.28 Anyone who
had still been in the dark certainly wasnt after this affair: Bremmer could
count on a host of influential admirers. After 1932 they began to take a more
cautious attitude toward Haystacks, and not only because of the involve-
ment of De la Faille and Scherjon in the appraisal and sale of the Wacker
Van Goghs. They also must have realized that many people in the Dutch art
world always placed Bremmers authority with regard to genuine and fake
Van Goghs above their own.
During the legal proceedings against Wacker in April 1932, Bremmer
distanced himself from Scherjons criticism of the authenticity of the Van
Gogh paintings owned by the Nationalgalerie. He countered Scherjons at-
tempt to blackmail Justi by complimenting Justi in court for the contro-
versial purchase of the very costly Daubignys Garden. It was Bremmers


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gesture of decency. It did not keep Scherjon from omitting the work from
his Van Gogh catalogue of November 1932, along with two other Van Goghs
from the Nationalgalerie. In 1937 Scherjon made a concession: he and De
Gruyter decided that only two of the paintings were forgeries, not three.
One of them was still Daubignys Garden. It must have disappointed Scher-
jon that Bremmer did not fully support him in his attack on Justi, but
Bremmer was not the kind of man to let others lay down the law for him
when it came to questions of authenticity. It is striking that in his Beeldende
Kunst of 1930 and 1934, Bremmer spoke so favorably of Scherjons Two Pop-
lars and Krller-Mllers Seascape but said not a word about any of the other
Wacker Van Goghs.29 There was another aspect of Scherjons attitude that
must have bothered Bremmer. Wasnt Scherjon one of his pupils? Shouldnt
a pupil adhere to what the instructor teaches? The fact was that in 1932, the
same thing happened to Scherjon that had happened to De la Faille and oth-
ers: the instructor could not tolerate his pupils striking out on their own.
The estrangement between Bremmer and Scherjon also had a professional
basis. Ever since its formation in 1930, Kunsthandel Huinck & Scherjon
had had a link with Bremmer through his Beeldende Kunst, of which he was
the sole editor. Art dealers advertised in it, but they noticed that Bremmer
paid less and less attention to their wares in his reviews. Other advertisers
felt the same way. It bothered them that the reviews showed an increasing
preference for a few art dealers in The Hague, and they became less and less
inclined to support the publication with their advertising income. Brem-
mer was pressured by the publishing company De Spieghel to do something
about the situation. The publisher suggested enlarging the editorial staff,
but Bremmer would not hear of it. In 1937 he stepped down, and Beeldende
Kunst was continued by an editorial trio who managed to breathe new life
into the magazine and increase the number of subscribers and advertis-
ers.30 In a letter to Bremmers wife, the publisher justified the decision by
reminding her that it had purchased Beeldende Kunst from Bremmer for
about 2,000 guilders in the expectation that their joint efforts would in-
crease profits. But the number of subscribers had dropped steadily, and the
publisher sensed an aversion from the advertising art dealers when Mr.
Bremmer began working more closely with the Nieuwenhuizen Segaar Gal-
lery in The Hague.31 It was clear that the commercial interests of art dealer
Scherjon were no longer in line with Bremmers.


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The Dutch Van Gogh world did not calm down after the Wacker affair.
New coalitions formed behind the scenes. Former enemies became friends,
former friends became enemies. The words friends and enemies should
be read in quotation marks: they were chiefly instrumental relationships,
serving material and idealistic ends. Bremmers main concern was preserv-
ing authority, but the struggle had a paradoxical effect, causing him to lose
authority as well as gain it. Sometimes it happened in his own backyard, as
when he lost his firm grip on Scherjon and then De Gruyter regarding the
question of authentic Van Goghs after April 1932. The fact that Scherjon
probably made effective use of his knowledge of De Wilds paint analy-
sis of Haystacks within a small circle, questioning its authenticity with De
Gruyter, of all people, and thereby damaging Bremmers interests, suggests
estrangement between Bremmer and his old supporters. Bremmer was in a
tight spot. Making a public statement about Haystacks would attract atten-
tion and might be counterproductive. And Scherjon knew that Bremmer
would not enter the fray because it was beneath his dignity. Bremmers
engagement in the Wacker affair was only sporadic. Nor was it necessary.
There were others who fought the battle for him between 1928 and 1933,
starting with Scherjon and De Gruyter. They did the dirty work on his
behalf. But by 1937, Bremmer had not a single follower who could defend
his interests with the energy of Scherjon. Yet it can be argued that Bremmer
managed to hold his own with regard to the authenticity question after the
Wacker trial and even made a profit. The core theory concerning the Van
Goghs of art dealer Otto Wacker no longer had any active opponents. The
German experts had died or been silenced by the Nazi regime. Bremmers
theory was endorsed by Scherjon and De Gruyter and confirmed in 1937.
De la Faille accepted it in 1932 and affirmed it in his revised Van Gogh
catalogue raisonn.
Relations in the Van Gogh world had changed, but they were far from
stable. There was a truce and no certainty as to how long it would last. It
was possible that some authoritative party would put interests at risk once
again, and preparations were being made for such an eventuality. This can
be inferred by the fact that the letters and bills connected with the sale of
Two Poplars, owned by the Huinck & Scherjon gallery and sold via De la
Faille to the Japanese collector Magosaburo Ohara, have been preserved.32


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The documents were stored in two document folders along with the gallery
accounting records.33
Studying the contents is a strange experience. The company probably
sold many hundreds of works in the more than 20 years of its existence,
among them work by illustrious artists such as Henri Fantin-Latour, Claude
Monet, George H. Breitner, Floris Verster, Paul Jongkind, Gino Severini,
and Vincent van Gogh. So the accounting records must have been much
more extensive than this. But documents have been preserved for only some
of the sales. There is not a bill, letter, or memo from the sale of drawings
and paintings by Van Gogh. But the correspondence with De la Faille over
the sale of Two Poplars to Japan has been preserved. Did Huinck and Scher-
jon regard his letters as a trophy after the bitter struggle of the Wacker af-
fair, or were they afraid that De la Faille might make another about-face at
some point? His deliberate decision to isolate the six Wacker Van Goghs in
his catalogue, with the denial of authenticity by German experts, appears
to suggest they are right. In the latter case, the contested correspondence
might have served them well.

Mrs. Krller-Mller died in December 1939. She was succeeded as director
of the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller by her secretary and confidant, Salo-
mon van Deventer. He gave a few paintings from his collection out on loan
and had a catalogue compiled of the Van Gogh collection, in which both
Seascape (F 418), then part of the state collection, and his own Self-Portrait
(F 418) occupied a prominent place. The Van Goghs were not organized
according to F numbers. In 1939 Van Deventer not only had the critics
exultant reviews of his Wacker Van Gogh to rely on, but he was also able to
draw support for the works authenticity from the Scherjon-De Gruyter and
De la Faille catalogues.
In March 1940 the museum scheduled a lecture by Maurits van Dantzig,
an Amsterdam painter and restorer. Van Dantzig availed himself of the op-
portunity to voice his doubts about the authenticity of a few of the paint-
ings. He summarized the most typical characteristics of the paintings by
Van Gogh and argued that they were not present in Seascape. Mrs. Krller-
Mller would have turned over in her grave. Bremmer did not take the


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analysis seriously; public disputes over the authenticity of the Wacker Van
Goghs were not welcome during the war years.
During the Second World War, Van Deventer did business with the Ger-
mans. He sold a few of the collections leading pieces including a Lucas
Cranach and a Hans Baldung Grien to Field Marshall Hermann Gring,
and went to prison for it after the war. His replacement, W. Auping, reissued
the 1938 Krller-Mller catalogue of the work of Vincent van Gogh. Seascape
was one of the few paintings reproduced in the catalogue. It was accompa-
nied by passages from Vincents letters that were supposed to corroborate its
authenticity. In this edition, too, the museum used its own numbering sys-
tem. The Faille numbers were nowhere to be seen.34 The painting was loaned
out for exhibitions in Basel and Gouda. Auping died unexpectedly in 1947.
In the museums Van Gogh catalogues, which were rst issued in 1949 and
were the responsibility of the new director, Abraham M. Hammacher, the
painting was accompanied by the following text: This canvas is from the gal-
lery of Otto Wacker and was purchased by Mrs. H. Krller-Mller in 1928-
29. She was convinced of its authenticity, although it was contested. Baart
de la Faille also included the canvas in his catalogue, regarding it as genuine
after some hesitation. Bremmer and Scherjon have conrmed its authentic-
ity. Compare with the drawing of this theme.35 From that moment on the
museum referred to the paintings by using the corresponding F numbers.
Seascape was not shown during the Vincent van Gogh centenary at the
Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller in 1953. Nor was it shown in the Haags Ge-
meentemuseum or the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where the hun-
dredth birthday of the master was also celebrated with large-scale exhibi-
tions. In 1953 Van Dantzig recalled the Wacker affair in his book Vincent?
and stated that opinions still differed on six Wacker paintings, among them
Seascape, which he himself did not regard as a Van Gogh.36 In the subse-
quent editions of the Van Gogh catalogue, Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller
added the following sentences to the accompanying text: Compared with
drawings of the same or similar motifs, the components of the painting
appear rather weak. For these reasons it is not being exhibited.37 It would
take until after 1980, however, before the museum would definitely label it
as a fake Van Gogh.38
Van Deventers Self-Portrait suffered a similar fate. After being dismissed
from the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller, Van Deventer terminated the loan


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arrangement and assumed that both this canvas and Seascape would be in-
cluded in the new Van Gogh catalogue raisonn, which was compiled by the
Netherlands Institute for Art History (Rijksinstituut voor Kunsthistorische
Documentatie, or the RKD) during the sixties. He got wind of a rumor
that Self-Portrait was not going to be included, and in 1969 he contacted the
compilers. Van Deventer found it unacceptable that the RKD would ques-
tion Bremmers competence to judge Van Goghs paintings, thereby casting
doubt on Self-Portrait.39 His protest had no effect. Times had changed: 30
years after his death, Bremmers authority appeared to have faded out.


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A Real Van Gogh.indd 190 29-5-2010 15:24:01
7 An uneasy legacy

Far away in America, Chester Dale kept abreast of what the German and
Dutch press were writing about the Wacker trial. The outcome must have
put his mind at ease. He may have recognized his own Self-Portrait at the
Easel in the verdict of the Berlin judges, who spoke of the high quality
Wacker Van Goghs outside Germany. He hung the picture in the dining
room of his New York apartment. It was no longer controversial, and illus-
trations in French and English publications saw to it that the message that
it was indeed a genuine Van Gogh reached the broader public. To give just
one example: the publisher of Thomas Cravens Modern Art advertised the
book in the New York Times with a reproduction of the work and a quote
from Craven: His face was a thing to turn ones soul. I doubt if nature in
her most audacious moods had ever before planted so unselfish a spirit and
so many heroic impulses in such a repugnant carcass.1 Self-Portrait at the
Easel is also one of only two Van Goghs illustrated in the book.
From 1942 the picture was on display for all to admire in the National
Gallery of Art in Washington, and was invariably listed in the museums
catalogues as a work of the artist. Since 1984 it has been inventoried as an
Imitator of Van Gogh, and has disappeared from the galleries.
An intriguing question: is it really possible that for forty years the mu-
seum remained ignorant of the truth about the canvas? Was Chester Dale
ever questioned about the pictures doubtful provenance and if so, how did
he and the museum react? These rather obvious questions could not be
answered through the sources available in the Netherlands, but research
at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution and at the
National Gallery of Art provided a fascinating insight into the attitude of
a collector seeking to protect his property, and the dilemmas facing the
museum once it became aware that the work was a forgery. The records

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. Berend Berenson and John Walker
during the thirties in the I Tatti garden
near Florence.

show that both Dale and the museum knew about the doubts surrounding
Self-Portrait at the Easel they were informed not once but several times by
a number of prominent figures in the art world. Until Dales death in 1962,
and for many years thereafter, this was done mostly behind closed doors.
The ins and outs of the story are the subject of what follows.

. The National Gallery of Art in Washington.

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A Directors Dilemma
How does a museum without either works of art or money create an out-
standing collection? By collecting collectors who will later become donors.
This was the simple answer provided by the curator and later director
of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, John Walker (1906-1995).
Walker discovered his passion for art at a young age. Upon completing his
degree in art history (summa cum laude) at Harvard University, he traveled
to Italy in 1930 to continue his studies with Bernard Berenson (1865-1959),
a famous connoisseur of the art of the Italian Renaissance. The contact with
Berenson and his entourage at Villa I Tatti, near Florence; the excursions
to churches, museums, collectors, and dealers; the study in libraries and
archives: these were art-lover Walkers halcyon days. Working as adjunct-
director and professor in charge of the fine arts at the American Academy
in Rome, he had the use of a car still a rarity in those days allowing him
and his students and colleagues to study interesting works at first hand.
Walker was an ambitious man: his greatest desire was to preside over a pres-
tigious museum. This dream was partially realized in 1937, when he became
chief curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
The museum was the brainchild of multi-millionaire and former Secre-
tary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937), who wanted to give the
United States its own national storehouse of art, an American equivalent
of the National Gallery in London. The government provided the land on
Constitution Avenue, which runs from the Capitol to the White House,
while Mellon paid for the design and construction of the new museum. He
and the government had counted on the nations major collectors to provide
the museum with its collection but in 1937, when the foundations were laid,
this seemed all but impossible. The building, an impressive Neo-Classical
pile, was to house 140 galleries, but so far only a single gift had been made:
125 paintings and twenty-three sculptures from the collection of Andrew
W. Mellon himself, who had died that same year. There were certainly a
number of masterpieces in the group for the connoisseurs, at any rate:
Botticellis, Adoration of the Magi; Raphaels Alba Madonna; a Crucifixion
by Perugino; Venus with a Mirror by Titian; Van Eycks Annunciation; Rem-
brandts Joseph Accused by Potiphars Wife; and Velzquezs Pope Innocent X.
These had been acquired by Mellon in 1932 from another national treasure-
house, the Hermitage in Leningrad, sold to him by the Soviets who were

a directors dilemma

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in desperate need of cash. Still, the museum in Washington was unlikely to
live up to its name with just one work of art per gallery.
In the years preceding the opening in 1942, John Walker and his direc-
tor, David Finley, busied themselves with convincing the countrys most
renowned collectors to lend or donate works of art. They faced any number
of hurdles. For one thing, there was a great deal of competition with other
museums, who were in pursuit of the identical group of wealthy patrons.
Most of these institutions were also interested in the same kinds of pictures
paintings by the Italian, Dutch, and Flemish Old Masters. Simultane-
ously, the number of museums continued to increase. From the end of
the nineteenth century onwards, American cities had sought to consolidate
their identity and position through the establishment of art institutions.
Furthermore, the founding of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in
1929 changed the American museum landscape forever. It had now become
acceptable to both collect and display works of art by living artists. Then
there was the stipulation that only works of equal quality to those from the
Mellon collection were allowed to enter the museum, whether as acquisi-
tions, gifts, or long-term loans. Admittedly, quality is an elastic concept,
but this legacy could be expressed in both monetary terms (the value of the
recently purchased paintings from the Hermitage) and in artistic value (the
appreciation of works of art by the same artist by other museums, critics,
or scholars). The bar was set high: this was the only way to provide the mu-
seum with a leading position in the Western art world.
Mellons stipulation meant the museum could exhibit neither copies nor
forgeries, nor incorporate them into its collection; but what was one to do
when a collector owned both genuine and suspect works? Tell the truth,
with the risk that they would be offered to a competing museum? And what
if the rival accepted them? Should one then reveal the truth? This would
have been more than a little perilous; one museum casting doubt on the
collection of another was simply not done. Walker discusses this dilemma
in his 1974 memoirs in relation to the Old Master collection offered to the
National Gallery by multi-millionaire Samuel Kress (1887-1956).
Kress, a former schoolteacher, had amassed a fortune with a chain of
5- and 10-cent stores. He was in the habit of buying paintings in the same
way he would purchase stock for his emporiums: in bulk, preferably at a
discount, and by haggling over every penny much to the despair of his

an uneasy legacy

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art dealers, who were hardly used to such behavior. In 1938 Kress declared
himself prepared to donate 393 Italian pictures. Among them were a num-
ber of masterpieces, but Kress was not thought to have a keen eye for qual-
ity. Walker was aware that two-thirds of the collection consisted of copies,
fakes, and mistaken attributions. He kept this knowledge to himself, in an
effort to avoid offending Kress, but the rules of the museum forbade him
from accepting anything that was doubtful. He therefore asked if he might
be permitted to make a selection, but Kress refused: for him, it was all or
nothing. According to Walker, he then had only one option and that was to
lie. He had, however, what he calls a Jesuitical justification: even among
Mellons gift there had been what he euphemistically calls undistinguished
works. Couldnt one argue, bearing these Mellon duds in mind, that the
Kress works of art were of a similar high standard of quality to (some of)
those in the collection acquired from the donor? With this rationalization,
which still makes me shudder, I designed the affidavit and put myself on
record that the Kress gift met Andrew Mellons stipulations.2
In the passages that follow, Walker further reasons that over the years
he would surely be able to weed out the more than 260 dubious pictures,
replacing them with real masterpieces a task in which he claims to have
succeeded. There was one aspect of this deed, however, that he fails to men-
tion, but to which Simpson draws attention in his book on the profitable
relationship between the connoisseur Bernard Berenson and the Duveen
Brothers (with galleries in London, New York, and Paris): with his affidavit,
Walker provided Kress with a tax rebate that was far and above the actual
value of the collection.3
In his autobiography, Walker portrays the many collectors he sought to
win for the National Gallery with a great deal of humor, respect for their
achievements, and attention to their eccentricities. Each of them is colorful,
powerful, and wealthy, making great demands on the museum and its staff.
He notes that a curator or director needs to have two things: a thorough
knowledge of art history and excellent diplomatic skills. Art scholars often
have the knowledge the collector lacks, but the latter has the art the mu-
seum cannot afford. A curator or director must remain on good terms with
every potential donor: he is a collector of collectors, whom he hopes will
one day become benefactors. As an expert, he seeks to influence the collec-
tor in his choices; the works, after all, have to fit into the museums collec-

a directors dilemma

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tion. A diplomat, on the other hand, knows how to reconcile conflicting
interests and desires. Walker employs an engaging analogy in this regard:
the curator or director behaves like an intelligent woman who coaxes her
husband into agreeing to something he had actually wanted to refuse, but
which she had her heart set on. Walker never played this game to the end,
he claims, and was always resolutely determined to do nothing but serve
the best interests of the museum: to create a balanced collection that could
compete with those of the best museums in the world. Acquiring Chester
Dales collection of modern French paintings was high on his list.

Dales Trump Card

In 1935 Chester Dale retired permanently from banking and began concen-
trating his eorts on securing his position in the American art world. As
the owner of several hundred masterworks, he was very much in the sights
of American and foreign museums. He was extremely good at playing the
game that condemns collectors and museums to one another. He hinted to
the director of the Chicago Art Institute that he would eventually donate
his entire collection to his museum. The management of the National Gal-
lery was told the same thing in condence, but others, too, felt they could
count on Dales favor. He strengthened the illusion with long-term loans,
which the museums regarded as gifts. He became a trustee of many an
institution, among them the Philadelphia Museum, the National Gallery in
Washington, the Chicago Art Institute, The Metropolitan Museum, and the
Museum of Modern Art. If things failed to go his way, he was in the habit of
suggesting he might in the end bequeath his entire collection to the Louvre.4
For these museums, dealing with a collector like Chester Dale was like
running the gauntlet. Some of them maintained the stipulation that only
works by artists who had been dead for more than twenty or fifty years
could be displayed or enter the collection. The reaction of Chester Dale in
Time: You dont suppose that I would give my collection of Picassos, for
instance, so they could bury them in the cellar until 20 years after Picasso
dies.5 The National Gallery worked under this regulation and the board
was well aware that it prevented them from acquiring works that could form
a bridge to the contemporary world. In order to be able to acquire Chester
Dales collection, the museum waived this rule in 1940.

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. Diego Rivera, Chester Dale (). x cm. On the table is the catalogue
Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Art, opened to the page showing his cherished
possession: the Wacker Van Gogh Self-Portrait at the Easel (F ).

At the opening of the National Gallery in 1942, Chester Dale was given
three galleries for the permanent display of his collection. He gave seventy-
one paintings on long-term loan, among them three Van Goghs: La Mousm
(F 431), Olive Orchard (F 656), and Self-Portrait at the Easel (F 523). The
works were much praised in the press: The self-portrait in it is one of
the best of the series that Van Gogh did of himself; some say that it is the
best. (...) It is a burning, thrilling thing and, as in all Van Gogh, it is a
perfect treatise in color.6 Dale provided the museum with information on
all his pictures, but failed to mention the controversy surrounding the self-
portrait: there is no mention of De la Failles Les faux Van Gogh, nothing on
De Wilds negative findings on the make-up of the paint, and not a word
on the devastating report by the anonymous Paris restorer. Moreover, Dale
altered the provenance. In previously published catalogues of his collection,

dales trump card

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the provenance is given as O. Wacker, Berlin; in French Paintings from the
Chester Dale Collection, however, which appeared in 1942 under the auspices
of the National Gallery with a foreword by John Walker, the picture is listed
as Mme J. van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam. Her name was a guarantee of
authenticity, while Otto Wackers was not.7 Dale thus turned the museum
ignorant of the scandal surrounding it into an accomplice in his quest
for the pictures legitimation. The painting had the honor, together with
La Mousm, of being illustrated in the National Gallerys first catalogue of
its collection, Masterpieces of Painting, published in 1944. This folio-format
publication, illustrated with costly color reproductions, quotes a letter from
Vincent to his brother Theo from 1888 that ostensibly supported the at-
tribution. The invented provenance, Mme J. van Gogh-Bonger, Amster-
dam, was reiterated in all the museums catalogues published until 1984.
There is no indication that in 1942 Finley and Walker knew anything about
the affair surrounding the Wacker Van Goghs that had played itself out ten
years earlier in the Netherlands and Germany. In 1950, however, everything

Washington, 1 March 1950

On 1 March 1950, Vincent Willem van Gogh sent a letter to Finley protest-
ing against the provenance of Self-Portrait at the Easel, which in Masterpieces
of Painting was given as Mme J. van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam. He wrote
that the canvas had never been in his mothers collection, and that he had
never seen it at her home. He could only assume, he wrote, that the mu-
seum was unaware of the Wacker affair, and suggested Finley consult De la
Failles Les faux Van Gogh. He emphasizes that it was not his intention to
make a claim for the painting one way or another he was well aware of the
risk of suggesting to a collector that one of his pictures might not be genu-
ine but the reference to Les faux Van Gogh can only have been intended
to prompt the museum to look into the question of the works authenticity.
The management hesitated, but Vincent Willem remained undaunted: in
1952 (and again in 1961 and 1971) he urged the National Gallery to correct
the provenance.8

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New York, 23 June 1950
On 23 June 1950, Walker met De Wild, who asked him if Chester Dale had
finally gotten rid of Self-Portrait at the Easel; after all, it was a forgery. De
Wild informed Walker that he had found resin in the paint, as he had in
all the other Wacker works. Walker was shocked and reported the conversa-
tion to his superior, Finley: Is it better to forget the conversation ever took
place? Should we tell Chester?9

Washington, 22 May 1951

On 22 May 1951, while on a lecture tour through the United States, De la
Faille spoke to Walker, telling him outright that the painting had never
belonged to Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. He also informed him that he was
sure the picture was not by Van Gogh, and that for this reason it would
not be included in his new edition of the oeuvre catalogue.10 De la Faille
repeated the message a year later. At this point there was no other complete
catalogue of Van Goghs paintings on the market, and no other scholar
working on one. It was impossible for the museum to ignore De la Faille.
The National Gallery finally mustered up the courage to confront Dale
in 1953, suggesting that he allow the museum to correct the provenance in
its catalogue of the collection. Their request, however, fell on deaf ears. By
this time, Vincent Willem van Gogh had met Dale several times, both in
the United States and the Netherlands, and had undoubtedly informed him
personally of the error. Dale is supposed to have responded with the memo-
rable words: I know of course that this is a controversial painting, but as
long as I am alive, it will be genuine.11
And so it was. The painting stayed on display and remained listed in the
catalogue as a work by Vincent van Gogh, with its provenance given as the
collection of Mme J. Van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam.

For and Against

Despite Dales veto, the museum refused to drop the matter and began an
investigation of its own. Research into the literature was in the first instance
extremely reassuring: De la Failles 1928 catalogue, Scherjons pamphlets of
1929 and 1932, as well as De Gruyters Vincent van Goghs Great Period. Arles,

for and against

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St. Rmy and Auvers sur Oise (Complete Catalogue), published in 1937. It
seemed that many writers from before the Second World War believed the
picture to be genuine. The only dissident voice of any authority remained
De la Faille and his Les faux Van Gogh of 1930, but even he appeared to have
later changed his mind, as evidenced by the catalogue raisonn of 1939. The
pre-war literature seemed to offer solid grounds for endorsing the paint-
ing, but even later there were some who remained convinced, for example
the author of a 1954 German dissertation on Van Goghs self-portraits. The
same was true of a more popular book on the subject from a few years later.12
There were, however, also a number of publications that cast doubt on the
picture, and by the end of 1961 John Walker who had succeeded David
Finley as director in 1956 had on his desk a list of twenty-one publications
for and sixteen against the authenticity of Self-Portrait at the Easel. These
references were of various kinds: scholarly works, newspaper articles, illus-
trations with captions, internal memoranda, etc. There were also mistakes
in Walkers calculations: Veths Schoon schip!, for example, was erroneously
counted among the no votes. Whatever the case, it must have been clear
to Walker that the painting was at best highly controversial.
But how to react to questions posed by outsiders? Self-Portrait at the
Easel was still on display when in 1966 an art historian asked Walker for a
photograph of the painting, which he wished to include in a book on art
forgeries. Walker agreed to supply the illustration, but wrote to the author
that the picture in fact had no place in the book, citing the large number
of publications that considered it to be genuine. The almost equally large
number of notices in which it was regarded as a fake remain unmentioned.13
In another instance, after visiting the museum with her class, a schoolteach-
er expressed her surprise at the attribution to Van Gogh of the self-portrait.
The museum answered that although there could be no doubt the picture
had weaknesses in terms of style, scientific examination and chemical analy-
sis had revealed there to be no problem.14
The issue of the paintings status became increasingly problematic for
the museum. In 1968 the paint was subjected to a new dating method based
on lead content that had been published in the influential magazine Sci-
ence.15 The result was heartening: the paint appeared to date from 1890.
The museums relief was short lived, however, as the method appeared to
have a margin of error of several decades. The paint could thus just as easily

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have been manufactured in the twentieth century. In the 1970s the museum
consulted several art experts on the matter, all of whom rejected the picture
out of hand. Still, it would take until 1984 many years after Dales death
before the museum dared to present to the Board of Trustees a report by
John Rewald, a renowned scholar of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist
painting, which declared the work an unequivocal forgery. Only then was
the decision taken to remove it from the display of the permanent collection.

In his memoirs, Walker describes himself in relation to his collectors as
alternately an art expert, diplomat, friend, and spouse. Elegant, but some-
what deceptive descriptions, for they suggest a certain equality. We can un-
doubtedly also recognize in him the courtier, a man who sought to achieve
his goals through dissemblance and flattery. There is also no denying that
there was always an element of subordination in the relationship, and so
yet another role comes to mind: that of the servant. In his autobiography
of 1974, Walker never says anything directly, but in 1990, many years after
his retirement, he discussed his relationship with Chester Dale in less cir-
cuitous terms. Walker describes him as a difficult and extremely egotisti-
cal man, who demanded constant attention and who with his wrangling
made life extremely difficult for the director and his colleagues, even to the
point of becoming an obstacle to winning other interesting collectors for
the museum. There was a constant fear that he would eventually choose
to house his collection somewhere else, and this was one of the reasons for
making him chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1955. This failed to bring
the hoped-for relief to the museum management, however, as more than
before they were forced to endure both his capricious behavior and hour-
long conversations on the telephone or at his home in order to appease him.
(We) would go up practically with bended knees and eight martinis and beg
him, Walker said in 1990, but once peace had been made there was plenty
of drink, merriment, and food.16 John Walkers childhood friend, First Lady
Jacqueline Kennedy, did not fail to notice the eects, and wrote him a con-
soling letter in 1961 that contains the following telling passage: You sound
tired + wise + girding for the struggle just the way you must sound when
they say: Chester Dale is on the phone (burn this letter!).17


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Dale left everyone in doubt about the fate of his collection of modern
French painting up to the last minute. Who would it go to upon his death
the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art
Institute, or perhaps, after all, the Louvre? Only after his death in 1962 was
it revealed that he had in fact bequeathed his entire collection to the Na-
tional Gallery of Art.

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8 Between a rock and a hard place

The Vincent van Gogh global authentication monopoly was in the hands of
four Dutchmen, wrote the editors of Connaissance des Arts in 1952: J. Baart de
la Faille, A.M. Hammacher, Engineer V.W. van Gogh, and W. Sandberg,
since without the signature of any one of them, no certificate of authentic-
ity is of value.1 It was a bare bones list, to be sure. Bremmers certificates
were also a surefire way of putting drawings by Van Gogh into the hands
of buyers, and so were those signed by the Flemish Van Gogh expert Marc
Edot Tralbaut. The list contained a mistake as well. In 1952, Willem Sand-
berg, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, was not issuing cer-
tificates of authenticity not any longer, that is. But Connaissance des Arts
was not far from the truth. The art market recognized the Van Gogh seal of
approval on only a few certificates of authenticity. If the dealers, collectors,
and museums had always been in agreement, they would have had no cause
for alarm. But unanimity on questions of authenticity could not be taken
for granted in the art world, let alone the Van Gogh world. As we saw in the
struggle over the Van Goghs of Otto Wacker, fierce clashes among experts
were not unusual. Bremmer managed to preserve his authority on questions
of authenticity, although he was not able to keep his old and new enemies
from rendering his Wacker Van Gogh Haystacks (F625bis) unmarketable.
The absence of Bremmer in the list of Connaissance des Arts was no over-
sight, by the way. Power relationships in the Van Gogh world had changed.
By 1952 Bremmer had slipped a bit into the background as an expert and
De la Faille was in the spotlight once again. But they both had to share
their authority on questions of authenticity with Hammacher, director of
the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller from 1947 to 1963, and with Engineer Van
Gogh. After the war, all four passed judgment on works of art brought to
them by owners eager for a Van Gogh attribution. The subsequent disagree-

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ment between the experts and the owners and among the experts them-
selves gave rise to a renewed conflict of interest in the Van Gogh world,
a conflict that would continue for decades. They and other experts were
faced with the task of defending their authority and their intellectual in-
dependence. How they managed this will be discussed here and in the next
three chapters. This chapter will focus on the painting Study by Candlelight,
which cropped up in France shortly after the Second World War and was
attributed to Van Gogh by De la Faille. The conflict over this work bears
all the traces of a revelation that sent shock waves through the art world in

The Van Meegeren case

In Amsterdam on 12 July 1945, the Military Authority (the post-occupa-
tion transitional government in the Netherlands) announced that Han van
Meegeren, a painter who was under arrest, had confessed that six pictures
that had been attributed to seventeenth-century masters by countless ex-
perts were his own work. Not Johannes Vermeer, not Pieter de Hoogh, but
he himself Han van Meegeren had allegedly produced paintings with
titles like Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus, Christ in the House of Mary
and Martha, and Interior with Card Players. Van Meegeren hoped that by
confessing, he would avoid a charge of collaboration (he had sold his Ver-
meers to Hermann Gring for more than 1.5 million guilders), knowing as
he did that the punishment for collaboration was much more severe than
the punishment for forgery.
Van Meegerens confession became world news. Big names from the
Dutch art world had praised the pictures as being the work of Vermeer and
De Hoogh. Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus, which surfaced in 1937, had
been attributed to Johannes Vermeer by Dr. A. Bredius, the great expert
on Old Dutch painting. Other authorities backed him, including Dr. A.B.
de Vries, director of the Mauritshuis; Dr. G. Knuttel Wzn, director of the
Haags Gemeentemuseum; and D. Hannema, director of the Boijmans Mu-
seum. Art critics such as Bremmer, Veth, Hammacher, and Engelman had
hailed the work as a masterpiece.
Van Meegeren also claimed to have painted The Last Supper, which ap-
peared in 1941. It, too, was attributed to Vermeer by an illustrious company

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of experts: D.C. Rell, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Dr.
A.F.E. van Schendel, director of the Rijksmuseum, and his replacement Dr.
C.M.A.A. Lindeman; and again Hannema of the Boijmans Museum. They
had made sure that the paint and canvas were from the seventeenth century
by seeking the opinion of technical experts, including Dr. A.M. de Wild.
All the touted paintings had been purchased for considerable sums by
the owners of prestigious collections, which would not have been possible
without the blessing of these authorities. Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus
was purchased for 540,000 guilders for the Boijmans Museum, while the
Rotterdam harbor baron D.G. van Beuningen added The Last Supper to his
private collection to the tune of 1,600,000 guilders. Did all these authori-
ties get it wrong in attributing the paintings to one of the greatest Dutch
artists in history, or was Van Meegerens confession simply the big talk of
an unappreciated and frustrated painter? When this question was finally
answered, the initial disbelief quickly gave way to dismay as Van Meegeren
provided a detailed explanation of how he had made his seventeenth-cen-
tury masters. But when he actually painted a Johannes Vermeer under
police supervision, the shocking truth could no longer be ignored.2 Van
Meegerens confession was not mere bluster.

The affair made a deep impression and exposed an aspect of attribution
that filled the judicial authorities with concern. If Dutch experts could so
easily be led down the garden path to accept fake works of art as genuine,
they constituted a considerable threat to the Dutch art trade and to Dutch
culture that had international ramifications. How could this be prevented?
After Van Meegeren was convicted on 12 November 1947, a few individuals
claimed that they had not let themselves be deceived and had been quite
aware that Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus was a forgery. Harry van Wi-
jnen, who studied the reception of Emmaus between 1937 and 1945, is not
so sure. Few people committed their doubts to paper before 1945, so those
who later insisted they had known all along did not have much to stand on.
There did appear to be a couple of exceptions, however. One of them was
the Duveen firm of international art dealers. Two Duveen employees had
had the opportunity to see the canvas in a vault in Paris on 4 October 1937,


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before it was sold to the Boijmans Museum. They warned Duveens New
York office in a telegram that has been preserved: Christ and the Disciples at
Emmaus was a rotten fake.3 The company kept this assessment to itself.
The same was true for Dr. J.Q. van Regteren Altena, collector and professor
of art history at the University of Amsterdam. He failed to appear at the
discussion of The Last Supper in March 1941 in the boardroom of the Rijks-
museum, but he did tell an art dealer that the canvas was a fake.4 He, too,
kept his opinion to himself and did not reveal it until the trial. The Duveen
firm was complying with the unwritten rule of the art trade: to remain
discreetly noncommittal when it comes to questions of authenticity. And
Van Regteren Altena? Was it simply a matter of not wanting to be bothered
to take up his pen, or was his silence an expression of collegial solidar-
ity? Whatever the answer, this discretion coupled with the unrestrained
enthusiasm of experts and critics meant that the forger and his accomplices
were able to carry on undisturbed. The lesson that the judicial authorities

. De la Faille attributed Study by . According to Bremmer, Self-Portrait

Candlelight (F a), x cm, to with Straw Hat was Vincent van Goghs
Vincent van Gogh in . Current own work. Current location unknown.
location unknown.

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its authenticity: the stylistic deficiencies, the absence of a signature, the text
etude a la bougie. In December 1948 he had a photograph of the paint-
ing examined once more by the aforementioned Maurits van Dantzig, an
art expert who specialized in forgeries, and by Jaff. As far as Sandberg was
concerned it was undoubtedly a fake.24
De la Faille thought the legal action was excessive. He told journalists
that there were ten incorrect attributions a year at the most, not hun-
dreds, as Sandberg and his associates had argued. He was not impressed by
the criticism: I was and continue to be fully convinced that this is a work
by Van Gogh.25 De la Faille was disappointed in the attitude of Sandberg
and the Engineer. He found their behavior rash, and he challenged their
expertise. After all, whose catalogue raisonn had brought him worldwide
prestige as an expert, and who had done more than anyone else to expose
Van Gogh forgeries? As he pointed out, he had proposed the establishment
of an expertise institute as early as 1925, and his words to the journalist also
included something that had the distinct ring of tribute: If it [the expertise
institute] is so highly desired by Mr. Sandberg, the expert would certainly
have expected him to have discussed it with himself and with Dr. Bremmer,
who has been campaigning against Van Gogh forgeries since 1905.26

William Goetz, the spanking new owner of Study by Candlelight, was just
as unpleasantly surprised by Sandbergs move and reacted in an appropriate
fashion. He asked the mayor of Amsterdam, A.J. dAilly, whether Sandberg
had made his statements in his capacity as museum director. He also sent the
Dutch consul in New York a letter of protest. Goetzs lawyer approached the
Amsterdam public prosecutor to protest the wilful, vicious, uncalled for,
and slanderous statements made by Sandberg. Goetzs offer to the prosecu-
tor is interesting. Recognized and impartial art experts of your choice will
be given every opportunity to study this painting in New York or California
in order to corroborate the opinions of first-rate experts who have already
acknowledged it as an important work.27 It was to be an independent in-
vestigation, but aimed at acknowledging the works authenticity. He then
sent his lawyer to Amsterdam to recoup his losses. The lawyer proposed to
Sandberg that experts be asked to make a statement. If Sandberg refused,

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the lawyer would take him to court for defaming the character of the paint-
ing. To this end, the owner would demand a symbolic sum of ten cents for
damages. If the experts proved Sandberg in the wrong, it would be a smear
on his reputation. If Sandberg persisted in his criticism, Goetz would still
take him to court. In the unlikely event that the experts should decide the
canvas was a fake, Goetz knew where to turn: to Lewenthal, who sold him
the painting, and De la Faille, who was paid for his certificate of authentic-
ity. Sandberg asked for time to reflect.
The mayor obtained legal advice on whether Sandberg had made his
criticism as museum director or as a private individual. The answer is sober-
ing: The action of Mr. Sandberg with regard to paintings that have been
wrongfully attributed to Van Gogh was done entirely outside his function
and his duties as director of the Stedelijk Museum. Mr. Sandberg acted
as an art connoisseur and expert, as anyone else possessing these qualities
might have done. While he may partly derive his authority from the func-
tion he holds, this does not mean that he must be seen as having acted in
the exercise of that function.28 Sandberg answered the mayor that care of
the Engineers collection had been entrusted to him as the director of the
Stedelijk Museum, and he asked him whether he, Sandberg, would not be
obliged to turn to the courts if paper currency of dubious authenticity had
been offered to him. The city wisely chose not to answer this basic ques-
tion.29 What was clear, however, was that his employer was not going to sup-
port him. Sandberg found himself between a rock and a hard place, between
two representatives of the Dutch state. He began his lawsuit at the request
of the public prosecutor, who wanted to put an end to the flood of forged
art, and was being stopped by his superior, the mayor of Amsterdam, who
did not want the city to be held liable on account of his action. As is later
shown, the mayor was also listening to the Dutch governments concerns
about diplomatic relations with the US.
Goetzs lawyer then went to see the Engineer, who gave him a declaration
stating that he only knew the painting from reproductions and could not
make a final judgment without having seen the work with his own eyes. By
doing this he did strip his judgment of its sharp edges, but it was still less
than the owner had wanted to hear from the mouth of the Engineer. In the
newspapers others joined in the authenticity battle. The American journal-
ist Irving Stone author of Lust for Life, a romanticized biography of Van


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Gogh that had sold more than two million copies in the United States at the
time called the painting genuine.30
Whether the transatlantic sparring match would actually go to court in
the Netherlands was uncertain. Something else had come up to muddy the
waters. For quite some time, the Dutch government had been planning to
mount a major Van Gogh exhibition in the United States beginning 15 Oc-
tober 1949 at the Engineers initiative, no less. The lions share of the art
would consist of works from the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller and from the
collection of the Engineer, who had already promised about 50 paintings
from the Foundation for the trip to the New World. Legal actions instituted
by Goetz threatened to make a dreadful mess of things. The Engineer was
afraid his pictures would be impounded on account of his statements about
Study by Candlelight, thereby jeopardizing the two planned exhibitions at
the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The conflict over authenticity had more than just an aesthetic and a legal
aspect. Politics would play a significant role as well.

National interest
For quite some time, Europe had been living with an iron curtain, to
cite Winston Churchills famous words of March 1946, which divided the
communist dictatorships from the Western European democracies. The
Dutch image of communists as courageous resistance fighters struggling
against the German oppressors was replaced by a picture of communists as
active supporters of the Soviet dictatorship. The common belief was that
the communists aim was to disrupt free society, since they kept calling for
strikes despite the fact that Western Europe was suffering from a short-
age of able-bodied workers to repair the immense damage inflicted by the
war. Moreover, they approved of the establishment of dictatorial regimes
in Eastern Europe, which had only just wrested itself from the horrors of
Adolf Hitlers dictatorship. In February 1948, the Dutch Communist Party
(CPN) celebrated the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia as a splendid
victory. The vast majority of Dutch people saw communists as subvert-
ers of freedom. Speaking of this period many years later, Sandberg said,
I remember being called day and night, often for months at a time. We
heard the word murderers and we were treated to every possible type of

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. The reaction to Sandbergs report
of forged Van Gogh paintings in the
Algemeen Dagblad of May .
His communist sympathies made the
complaint suspect.
[cartoon caption: LA GIOCONDA
. What are you hiding behind that
mysterious smile, O lovely one?]

verbal abuse. Our phone lines were cut. All kinds of things were done to
you that were completely illegal, simply because you were reputed to be
a communist.31 The Algemeen Dagblad illustrated an article on the Van
Gogh question with a cartoon that connected the hardening of political
relations between East and West with art forgeries. The cartoonist replaced
the face of Leonardo da Vincis Mona Lisa with that of Joseph Stalin and
asks, What are you hiding behind that mysterious smile, O lovely one?
The uproar over aesthetics and authenticity was seen as the machinations
of communist agitators. Elseviers Weekblad also discerned political agitation
in Sandbergs statements on Study by Candlelight: Recently we pointed
out that Mr. Sandberg who admits to being a confirmed communist is
not the appointed director of Amsterdams Stedelijk Museum. In an excess
of progressive zeal, this director has a penchant for inviting the most ex-
treme and left-wing groups into his building. Recently at such a gathering a
scuffle broke out. This same Mr. Sandberg has disgraced the entire country
with his impetuous declaration that a Van Gogh owned by an American is

national interest

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a forgery. There is no doubt that Mr. Sandberg will bring us more discredit,
but do not imagine it is entirely unintentional. All this disgrace and all
this squabbling are part of a campaign to undermine the peace, order, and
security of Western Europe.32 While not every newspaper made this con-
nection, Elseviers Weekblad and Algemeen Dagblad were expressing a view
held by many that the battle over the authenticity of Study by Candlelight
had international political ramifications.
All this commotion was a source of great concern to the Dutch govern-
ment, for relations between the Netherlands and the United States were
already strained. The Netherlands was fighting a colonial war in Indonesia,
much to the displeasure of America. Then, on a completely different front,
there was the negative publicity in America over the spectacular forgeries
made by Han van Meegeren. The news that Sandberg and Engineer Van
Gogh had labeled Goetzs brand-new painting as a fake made headlines
in the American newspapers as well, just when the Van Gogh exhibitions
could have compensated so nicely for all the bad press. They might have
supplied the requisite goodwill as well as the necessary foreign currency.
The national authorities feared that the conflict over authenticity would
become politicized. The Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences told the
Dutch consul in New York that the question was exceedingly unpleasant
and unwelcome.33 The Netherlands Information Bureau, a division of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York, wrote to Sandberg: As you know,
besides being a very wealthy film magnate and art collector, Mr. Goetz is
also a close personal friend of President Truman and is generally regarded
as a very influential man in America. The bureau also wrote that, for the
sake of relations with America, the consul general wanted to avoid a lawsuit
and had won Goetz over to the idea of having the painting inspected by a
few Dutch experts. It explained to Sandberg that the relationship between
the Netherlands and America is unfortunately rather sensitive on a number
of points. That sensitivity had to be humored. The bureau asked Sandberg
politely if he would cooperate.34 The message was clear: Sandberg had to
keep his mouth shut.
A friend asked Sandberg point-blank why he had declared Study by Can-
dlelight a fake: I dont understand you, either. Even though youre perfectly
aware that Mr. William Goetz is an American citizen, and that he is doing
a great deal for art in general besides having bought a Van Gogh for a lot

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of money, and hard American dollars at that you casually call his Van
Gogh a fake. Look, Wil, weve had a major loan from the USA [through
the Marshall Plan] and hope to borrow more, and we also hope theyll keep
their hands off the Indies ... all these considerations have to be taken into
account in any judgment of the authenticity of this Van Gogh. So I really
dont understand you.35
The proposal of the consul to send Dutch experts to America was greeted
with skepticism in The Hague. Goetz demanded that the experts make an
impartial statement. The Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences told the
consul there is practically no expert inside or outside the Netherlands who
hasnt been involved in this or a similar Van Gogh aair, for a longer or
shorter period of time. All the reputed or actual Van Gogh experts are in-
volved to some extent, and no one is especially inclined to stir up this hor-
nets nest.36 The Dutch government saw that no Dutch art expert had put
his name forward, and it looked as though Engineer Van Gogh might with-
hold his contribution to the exhibitions in America for fear of conscation.

To break the impasse, the director of the Metropolitan Museum offered
to appoint a commission of experts to come to a unanimous judgment: if
the painting was a Van Gogh, it would be included in the exhibition.37 The
Engineer agreed, and in late September a ship from the Holland-America
Line set sail for the United States carrying 142 works by Vincent van Gogh
under the care of the Engineer and Hammacher. The Americans estimated
the value of the contribution at more than three million dollars. In New
York, the paintings and drawings were welcomed with great festivities. The
route from the harbor to the Metropolitan Museum was cordoned off by
soldiers and traffic was halted.
But for the Engineer and Hammacher, there was unpleasant news in store.
The directors of the Metropolitan had failed to keep their promise to have
the commissions report on Study by Candlelight ready for their arrival. The
trustees of the Metropolitan, wealthy businessmen who ran the museum
and kept it going by means of donations, had a completely dierent take
on how to settle the controversy and wanted to discuss it with the Engineer
and Hammacher. As Hammacher later recalled in 2001: The trustees had


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. Engineer V.W. van Gogh and
Chauncy McCormick, director of the
Chicago Art Institute, unload paintings
under police escort in late January

brought their lawyers along. They wanted to meet with the Engineer and
me to discuss the question of the fake painting, a painting we had not yet
seen. They thought it was a question of some significance and conveyed to
us a message from the lawyer of the owner, William Goetz: the painting
would be included in the exhibition. Mr. Van Gogh exploded with rage.
He refused to allow a forged work to be exhibited. He was told that he, the
Engineer, had never actually seen the work and that they had the right to
challenge him on this point. According to Hammacher:

[the Engineer said,] If that is the case, then stop unpacking immediately. There
will be no exhibition. He turned to me and asked, What are you going to do? I
told the trustees, I cant take you on single-handedly. Youve got lawyers. Ive got
to get in touch with The Hague immediately. The Dutch government is going to
have to get me the support of an extremely good lawyer without delay. The case
was at a standstill, hanging between favourable and unfavorable. I didnt want to
go to battle on my own. I proposed that the painting not be shown in the galleries
but in the entrance to the galleries, with information about it that was as objec-
tive as possible. This was rejected. The trustees said, It is to be shown among the
other works or not at all.38

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Tensions mounted when Goetzs lawyer threatened to have the Engineers
Van Goghs impounded.39 He also raised the possibility of suing him for
damages to Goetzs property. Bluffing or not? He must have known that an
American court would not automatically decide in his clients favor. There
were few legal precedents involving cases like this one, and the fate of the
canvas would be placed in the hands of a jury of laymen. Why should laymen
attach more value to the judgment of De la Faille or Paul Gachet than to the
words of Vincent van Goghs relative and namesake? The chance was great
that the case would not be decided in Goetzs favor. Finally Goetz and the
Engineer agreed to the proposal to have judgment passed by a commission.
The Metropolitan approached the former director of the Museum of
Modern Art, the distinguished Alfred Barr, as well as Sheldon Keck (Brook-
lyn Museum, New York), James Plaut (Institute of Contemporary Art, Bos-
ton), and George Stout (Worcester Art Museum, Worcester), none of whom
was a Van Gogh expert. The Engineer promised to withdraw his negative
assessment if the commission should declare the painting authentic. Goetz,
too, agreed to reconcile himself to the commissions judgment.40 Because of
all the commotion, the opening of the exhibition was delayed,41 but on 20
October 1949, ve days later than planned, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
opened its doors for the exhibition Van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings.

On 25 November 1949, the commission pronounced its judgment, with
full recognition of its own fallibility. It had compared the painting with
the works at the exhibition and found it strident in color, weak in draw-
ing, and uncertain in the modeling of the head. In construction, the paint-
ing shows several deviations from Van Goghs customary procedure. The
commission did not want to accept it as an original work of Van Gogh but
also admitted that its authenticity would probably never be definitely es-
tablished. It concluded:

When the body of work by an artist once has been established, it is assumed that
before a hitherto unknown work purporting to have been made by that artist
can be accepted as genuine, the claim of authenticity must rest upon adequate
and convincing grounds. The assumption is not that the work is authentic until


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proved otherwise but that work is to be doubted until an overwhelming body of
evidence and opinion attest its validity. In spite of the obvious and general re-
semblances between the Goetz painting and works by Van Gogh, the committee
concluded that these resemblances were supercial and unconvincing.42

This conclusion is striking in two respects. The first is the phrase that au-
thenticity is to be held in doubt as long as the opposite has not been proven.
Probably the legal approach to questions of authenticity in the United States
played a role here. De Gruyter commented on this in 1950: It is not pos-
sible to declare a work of art false in the positive sense in America because
the law can regard such a declaration as an attack on private property.43
The second is the remark that Van Goghs entire oeuvre is known. All the
experts had to go on were two publications: the authoritative catalogues
raisonns of 1928 and 1939. In 1949 the only oeuvre catalogues were those of
De la Faille.44 But the same De la Faille had confirmed the authenticity of
Study by Candlelight and announced that it would be included in the third
edition, yet to be published, under number F 476a.

Most American and Dutch newspapers reported that the commission had
declared the work a fake.45 Goetz did not want the Metropolitan to show
Study by Candlelight with a notice beside it explaining that it was not a
Van Gogh: This picture has been subjected to enough indignities.46 De
la Faille was furious. He told the press that the experts from the Metro-
politan Museum were utterly devoid of expertise.47 Speaking in a private
setting he referred to them as big blockheads.48 He stuck by his opinion
that Study by Candlelight was an authentic self-portrait and wanted to ask
recognized European experts for their judgment.49 Goetz formally com-
missioned De la Faille to have the self-portrait examined in Europe.
In the Netherlands De la Faille complained that his choice was limited.
He insisted that museum directors should not issue written certificates of
authenticity, while other experts did not want to become involved in the
case because of the Van Meegeren affair. Finally, in the spring of 1950, he
succeeded in putting together a five-member commission that would pass
a judgment. Of these five, only C.W. Huinck, director of the Huinck &

between a rock and a hard place

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Scherjon gallery, could boast of having had prolonged experience with
the work of Van Gogh. But neither he nor any of the other commission
members had published anything on Van Goghs oeuvre. The other ex-
perts were: Dr. C.H. de Steurs, former curator of the print collection of
the Rijksmuseum; W.C. Feltkamp, brother-in-law of H.P. Bremmer and
author of books about modern art; A. Schoeller, a French art expert; and
A.C. Willink, a painter of magical realism. After looking at the painting
they each resolutely declared that the canvas was a real Van Gogh. Huinck
commented, A work by Vincent van Gogh without a doubt, and one of
the most important.50
The owner was satisfied with this statement and publicized the judgment
of the European experts far and wide. He had the painting shipped back
to New York, where an unpleasant surprise awaited him. The customs of-
ficials demanded 5,000 dollars in import duties, being ten percent of the
purchase price in 1948. The reason was simple. Because of the triumphant
stories in the press, the tax authorities had been alerted to the fact that a
painting was being imported to which an American commission had denied
the label original. Original works of art were exempt from import duties,
but reproductions were not. The judgment of the European experts was
no concern of theirs.
Goetz protested to the Department of the Treasury, which decided to un-
dertake its own investigation. It called on the head of the technical research
department of the Metropolitan Museum, which estimated the age of the
painting at 50 to 60 years. It also engaged a linguist to decipher the Japanese
characters, as well as a graphologist, who said that the signature, the dating,
and the inscription closely resembled the handwriting of Van Gogh. On
these grounds, the Secretary of the Treasury decided it was a real Van Gogh
and therefore exempt from import duties.51
Goetz and De la Faille let the press know that the authenticity was now
beyond all doubt. The New York Times added an ironic comment: As for
the original decision by the Metropolitan jurors, only their honorable con-
cession of their own fallibility seems likely to go unquestioned today. Mat-
ters of this sort, by their very nature, are never settled to everybodys satis-
faction, and very likely the art experts will go on bickering for a long time.
But most of us learned long ago never to argue with the customs man.52


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The newspapers prediction that art experts would long be bickering over
the paintings authenticity never came true, as far as I can tell. It all depends
on what is meant by bickering. If it means discussion that is, present-
ing and verifying the facts in order to learn the truth then the harvest
is meager. In February 1951, the seventeen most important protagonists
including Gachet, De la Faille, the Engineer, Sandberg, and Goetz were
given a detailed inquiry form containing some 40 questions about Study by
Candlelight and related portraits. The sender wanted to write an article in
order to stimulate interest in art and art studies. The questionnaire was
not issued by an academic magazine but by the daily Het Vrije Volk.53 The re-
sponses were probably disappointing. In any case, an article on the answers
never appeared. In 1953 Van Dantzig published his method for unmasking
forgeries known as pictology (which I will discuss in the next chapter),
and his analysis supposedly showed that the work was not a Van Gogh.54
But pictology as a method of establishing the authenticity of works of art,
in this case by Vincent van Gogh, was a poor fit. If bickering is under-
stood to mean debating, or presenting the facts in such a way that one is
confirmed in ones own opinions, then the remark in the New York Times
was certainly prescient.
De la Faille never wavered from his opinion about the authenticity of
William Goetzs painting. He saw himself proven right once and for all in
1954 when a new edition of Vincents letters was published and the painting
appeared (according to his reading) in a hitherto unknown letter.55 He re-
peated his standpoint a few years later in an issue of a series of brochures he
was editing, Les Cahiers de Vincent van Gogh. Goetzs painting was presented
as a Van Gogh in exhibitions in the US during the fifties, but after 1959 the
exhibition history becomes murky.
De la Faille was never able to carry out his plan to include the painting
in the third edition of the catalogue raisonn. He died in 1959. His uncom-
pleted catalogue was revised by an editorial committee, however, with the
financial support of the Dutch government. De la Failles widow attended
a few editorial meetings during the sixties but remained ignorant of the
modifications being made by the committee until the book was published.
The large and expensive book came out in 1970, still under his name. This
posthumous magnum opus The works of Vincent van Gogh: His paintings

between a rock and a hard place

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and drawings calls Study by Candlelight one of the works that De la Faille
wanted to include but that the editors did not regard as a genuine Van
Gogh. The editors cite literature with arguments both for and against, but
do not provide any explanation for this decision.56
The widow was quite put out by the printed result and complained to the
chairman of the committee. His answers failed to satisfy her. She considered
instituting interlocutory proceedings and hired a lawyer. One of her griev-
ances was the absence of F 476a, Study by Candlelight.57 In 1970 William
Goetzs heir put his entire painting collection up for sale, but without Study
by Candlelight. As far as I can determine the work has not been exhibited
since then. Catalogues published after 1970 have omitted it.58 In a recent
exhibition catalogue on Vincents portraits and self-portraits it is conspicu-
ous by its absence.59 Its current location is unknown.
The battle over Study by Candlelight shows that casting doubts on the
authenticity of a painting or denying it outright can be seen as damage to
valuable property. The owner defends himself and calls on the assistance of
experts, who consolidate the argument in favor of the works authenticity.
Power is also exerted in various forms. The owner tries to gain control over
his antagonists and their views. If they are no longer able to express them-
selves freely, the unwelcome tidings are apparently stifled as well. Goetz
used legal weapons to broaden the conflict: he received support from rep-
resentatives of the Dutch government in order to silence Sandberg. The
city of Amsterdam washed its hands of Sandberg while the Ministries of
Foreign Affairs and of Education, Arts, and Sciences urged him to keep
quiet. It is interesting how the conflicting interests, represented by govern-
ment officials, were responsible for the controversy. The Amsterdam public
prosecutor felt obliged to take bold action against forgeries, regardless of
who owned them. The ministries wanted to improve relations with the
United States, so unfavorable statements about the property of an influen-
tial American were unwelcome.
The principal lesson taught by the history of Study by Candlelight is how
effective it is to threaten with legal weapons. After Goetz threatened to take
legal action against them in June 1949, Engineer Van Gogh and Sandberg
never made any more public statements about the authenticity of the paint-
ing. Sandberg did not bring it up again until 1975.60


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9 Among art experts

The government is not a judge of science or art. These legendary words

spoken by the Dutch statesman Johan Rudolf Thorbecke in 1862 have be-
come the touchstone for the relationship between art and government in
the Netherlands.1 They eliminate any possibility of Dutch politicians decid-
ing on questions of authenticity. Rulers of states whose art is inextricably
linked to national identity may very well feel called to pass judgment on
such questions. An example is Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was also king of
Prussia. In 1909 Wilhelm Bode, chairman of the Royal Museums in Berlin,
bought a sculpture Leonardo da Vincis Florabuste from a British art
dealer, to the great satisfaction of Wilhelm II. It fit in well with the other
spectacular purchases being made by the museum and alarmed the British,
not only because there were few works by this famous artist on the market
or so much money was involved, but mainly because in their eyes it was
an expression of German political, military, and economic expansion. But
when British art experts uncovered evidence that the bust was a fake evi-
dence that Bode regarded as utterly worthless the agitation gave way to
gloating, Wilhelm II decided to get involved in the struggle over authentic-
ity: the honor of Germany was at stake.2
Thorbecke was wary of state power manifesting itself through art, so
both he and his successors took great pains to distance themselves in public
from statements on authenticity. This was reflected in the attitude of gov-
ernment officials who were charged with exhibiting and caring for works
of art. To my knowledge, the curators and directors of Dutch museums
have never been legally prohibited from making judgments on authentic-
ity. Nevertheless, only one or two have voluntarily and openly become in-
volved in disputes concerning the authenticity of art, in this case the works
of Van Gogh. In this chapter, I will be discussing an attempt by Engineer

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Van Gogh and Sandberg to engage the state in such a role by means of an
organization, the Expertise Institute (full title: Institute to promote sound
and independent expertise with regard to works of art). After their attempt
failed, they refocused their efforts by setting up a private organization to
carry out the same task. An unavoidable aspect of this discussion is how the
organization was to monitor its control over research on the authenticity of
works attributed to Vincent van Gogh, and what it ought to do if its experts
issued contradictory statements regarding that authenticity.

Lost works
With the post-war controversies over questions of authenticity the Old
Masters of Han van Meegeren and the aair of Self-Portrait with Straw Hat
and Study by Candlelight the Engineer and Sandberg became more and
more convinced that the assessment of works attributed to Dutch artists
should no longer remain in the hands of independent persons. The Engineer
probably recalled the behavior of a few experts involved in the case of the
Otto Wacker Van Goghs. Speaking on this subject in 1930, he said, Despite
the irrefutable evidence that I had in my own hands, I came up against an
impenetrable wall built by wealthy and powerful individuals who realized it
was in their best interest not to tell all the secrets.3 He must have realized
that the art experts back then had not been motivated solely by a quest for
truth. A national institute, however, would better guarantee the experts in-
dependence. No doubt the Engineers views were supported by the sta of
the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, where his Van Goghs were on loan.
The rst experience of Stedelijk teamwork was in the autumn of 1947.
Sandberg was approached by Adrianus Marijnissen, a tax ocial from Breda.
Marijnissen owned almost 250 paintings and drawings that were purported
to have been made by Vincent van Gogh during his Dutch period. Could
these be the works that Van Gogh had left with his mother before leaving
the Netherlands in 1885? It was known that Bremmer had arranged for the
sale of some of the works in 1903 at the Oldenzeel gallery in Rotterdam.4
What about the rest? Did it all just disappear? Was it destroyed, or was some
of it saved? And if it was saved, had it become the property of Marijnissen?5
Johanna van Gogh-Bonger had already tried to track down these lost works
during the 1910s and to gain possession of them, but without success.

among art experts

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. H.L.C. Ja, W. Sandberg and Engineer V.W. van Gogh setting up the exhibition
of the Theo van Gogh Collection in the Stedelijk Museum in .

Sandberg asked Hans Jaff to examine Marijnissens drawings and paint-

ings. Jaff was the acting director of the Amsterdam city museums who had
done some writing on Van Gogh, including an almost completed disserta-
tion that had gone missing during the war. Sandberg also asked the restorer
Maurits van Dantzig for his opinion. Jaff and Van Dantzig found the ques-
tion interesting, but the conclusion they reached in late 1948 must have
been disappointing for Marijnissen: a fairly large number of the drawings
and paintings were not by Van Gogh. Some of the drawings had been made
on paper that dated from after 1900, and they suspected the signatures had
been forged. Van Dantzig was not yet ready with his investigation of the
paintings, but after six months (the question of Study by Candlelight was
receiving full media attention) Jaff wrote to Marijnissen and told him that
not a single drawing or painting was from the hand of Vincent van Gogh.
The newspaper reports of Dutch forgery factories in the south of the
country were undoubtedly referring to the Marijnissen collection.6

lost works

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State of emergency
In 1949 the Engineer and Sandberg began pressing for the establishment of
a central expertise bureau: an authoritative organization that would oper-
ate under the auspices of the national government. The Provisional Arts
Council of the Minister of Education, Arts, and Science gave them a rec-
ommendation, thereby providing them with a sense of support. There was
little action to back it up, however, and in 1950 Sandberg went to talk to his
employer, the city of Amsterdam. He did not mince matters. They were in
a state of emergency, he said. Forgeries of Frans Hals, Vermeer, and Van
Gogh were spoiling the good name of Dutch art. Sandberg explained it this

the owner of a painting that has not yet appeared in the ocial catalogues and
handbooks works his way down the list of known experts until one of them is
willing to acknowledge his picture as an original painting by a well-known art-
ist. This recognition suddenly increases the value of the work enormously, often a
hundredfold, so the owner can easily aord such an assessment. A piece has to be
glaringly fake not to be given an experts signature. This situation has caused the
prestige of certicates of authenticity to drop enormously in recent years. At the
moment there are several canvases on the world market that have been attributed
to Vincent van Gogh by experts but are unmarketable, according to their owners,
unless they bear a certicate signed by yours truly.

Sandberg was not willing to conduct assessments on his own, however, be-
cause it is almost impossible to be one hundred percent certain about the
authenticity of a work by a deceased master, while proving that a work is
false is possible in very few cases. He called for teamwork, since a paint-
ing can only be judged with a likelihood bordering on certainty when it is
examined in terms of chemistry, X-rays, graphology, stylistic analysis, and
provenance. That requires the collaboration of five specialists. [...] Each of
them issues a separate report of the research carried out in his area; if the
specialists agree, the case is simple. If they do not agree, they have to sit
down and try to reach a consensus.7 What Sandberg did not deal with was
the problem of what to do if the experts continued to disagree.
There was no response from his superiors. Undaunted, Sandberg wrote
to the mayor and aldermen a few weeks later, describing a recent experi-

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ence he had had with forgeries and thereby hoping to press home his appeal
for a central expertise bureau. At the request of the Israeli and Dutch au-
thorities he had set out for Paris with Dr. A.B. de Vries, the director of the
Mauritshuis, to look at some artistic treasures owned by a deceased Jewish
collector. The heirs were prepared to donate the collection to Israel on the
condition that a museum be built bearing the name of the deceased man.
We thought this case might be important for the young state of Israel,
Sandberg said, so with a high sense of purpose we embarked on a job that
promised to be very extensive, since the collection comprised more than
1,000 pieces [...] with famous names such as Velzquez, Botticelli, Titian,
Veronese, Rubens, Prudhon, Corot, Daumier, Boudin, Manet, Monet, Pis-
sarro, Seurat, and Rousseau le Douanier, sometimes many from a single
master. To make a long story short, not a single one of these paintings was
of any value whatsoever; all of them were extremely crude fakes. Sandberg
ended his letter with an appropriate flair for the dramatic: Mr. De Vr-
ies and I were astonished that in Paris, among all those museums that of-
fered so many opportunities for comparison, such an improbable collection
could be put together with so little hesitation. I had seen collections like
this in South America, but I could not believe that such a thing was possible
in the center of European art.8
Mayor DAilly of Amsterdam responded by trying to win over the min-
ister to the idea of a central expertise bureau.9 The minister in turn sent the
proposal to the National Museum Advisory Commission,10 where it died a
quiet death.

Expertise Institute
The Engineer, however, was indefatigable. Since the city of Amsterdam
and the Dutch government were not willing to make the assessment of art
a government responsibility, he began work on establishing a foundation
that would carry out assessments. Sandberg attempted to enlist persons
from the museum world to sit on the foundations board of directors. One
unnamed museum director politely declined and told the future secretary,
the publicist Margrit de Sablonire (pseudonym for M.A. Bicker Caarten-
Stigter, 1905-1979), that he had talked about the institute on Museum Day
and said he detected a certain hesitancy as well as the feeling that adding

expertise institute

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ones signature would put one in a tricky position.11 According to De
Sablonire, the museums did not want to jeopardize their relations with art
donors.12 Consequently, those who were most interested in setting up the
institute were not from the art world. Besides Sandberg, they included J.
Slagter dike warden of Rijnland and Margrit de Sablonire.
De Sablonire had been barraging the Dutch government with letters
about fake Van Goghs since the end of the war. She wrote articles for Vrij
Nederland, Het Parool, and Museumjournaal and published a book about
Vincents life and work. She was a woman with a mission. When newspa-
pers refused to publish her articles on Van Gogh forgeries, she decided to
eliminate the middleman. She had them printed at her own expense and
distributed them to anyone who might be interested. At the end of 1950 she
wrote in Vrij Nederland about the Van Gogh forgeries of the past 20 years
and pressed for the establishment of a national institute that would evalu-
ate the authenticity of a painting with the greatest possible certainty at a
reasonable price. She believed it was the task of the Dutch government to
make sure that the name Van Gogh remain unstained and that his work
was purged of forgeries. As it is now the dead are being dishonored.13 But
the government refused to comment.
On 3 June 1952 the Expertise Institute was founded. The founders ex-
pected that in due course the museums would come to support their work.
The board of directors consisted of seven persons, including two lawyers.
Initially the Engineer saw the goal of the Institute as Helping interested
persons obtain unbiased, sound opinions concerning the authenticity of
works of art. It would do this by selecting experts who would carry out
well-documented assessments: [...] this may involve a single person or a
committee of three. Thus the Institute is not responsible for the judgment
of the experts. Rather, it serves as the liaison between the owner of a work
of art and the experts who examine it.14 The Institute was no longer will-
ing to tolerate certificates of authenticity consisting of just a few lines, like
the ones that had become traditional in the art world. It expected Institute
experts to formulate carefully researched statements, setting down the facts
and arguments for or against a works authenticity in black and white.
The idea of teamwork among experts from various academic disciplines,
which Sandberg had advocated in his appeal to the government, was aban-
doned by the board. This was undoubtedly due to the absence of govern-

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ment support and the lack of financial resources, but it also had to do with
the desire to help interested persons obtain an independent assessment at
low cost. Bringing in several experts for a single work of art would only
increase the prices, which less affluent owners would not be able to afford.
The Institutes board was driven by a single ideal: to keep the oeuvre of
Dutch artists pure.
The board set out to draw attention to the Institutes work. On 18 July
it held a press conference and organized an exhibition entitled Fake or
genuine in the Stedelijk, which was also to be mounted in Basel, Zrich,
Dsseldorf, and New York.
The Institute organized test assessments. It asked two art experts to ex-
amine an Utrillo from the collection of the Stedelijk Museum. The exami-
nation revealed that the work was a fake. A drawing attributed to Vincent
van Gogh by the owner was sent to Hammacher and Jaff for assessment.
Their finding: not a Van Gogh. Independent of each other they put forward
the names of artists who might have made the drawing. One of them was
Jakob Nieweg, who stated that although he recognized his style, it was not
his own drawing but a drawing based on one of his drawings. In its annual
report the Institute called the result of the assessment very positive.15
Anticipating the possibility that owners might expect the Institute to
cover any losses incurred by a negative assessment, it stipulated that the
Institute provides assessments only at the request of the owner of a work
of art, and that those who submit works indemnify the Institute against all
claims if a disagreement should arise with regard to the property.16
In the years leading up to 1957, the Institute dealt with about 150 requests
for assessments. The artist for whom the largest number of requests was
submitted was Van Gogh, with about 80. The Institute found nine of them
to be genuine. Other attributions concerned artists such as Rembrandt, Ru-
bens, and Fantin-Latour.17 The Institute would only carry out assessments
on artists who were sufficiently represented in Dutch museums for purposes
of comparison. Almost all the assessments on Van Gogh were conducted by
experts from the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller. In most
cases each work was evaluated by one expert.
Manifestly absent were the independent experts Bremmer and De la
Faille. Not once were they invited by the Expertise Institute to carry out
an assessment. The reason was an unwritten but conscious function of the

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Institute, which was to undermine the authority of these men and to pre-
vent them from serving as leading figures in the Van Gogh market. This
was patently obvious when the Van Wisselingh gallery asked the Institute
for its assessment of the painting The Garden (F 577). The work proved to
be a Wacker Van Gogh that Bremmer wanted Van Wisselingh to put on the
market. The secretary wrote to Jaff a few days later, however, explaining
that the assessment had been called off, since Mr. Bremmer had the op-
portunity to sell it without an assessment. [...] How long is this halo going
to have its desired effect? What a shame. We could have given him quite a
wallop this time.18
The Institute was successful insofar as it was able to protect the experts
from improper pressure from owners. But in mid-1957 a crisis began in
which it became clear that decisions about authenticity were not based en-
tirely on the findings of experts. Within a few months time, completely
contradictory assessments were made of four works that the owners had
attributed to Van Gogh. It all started with the controversy over a paint-
ing, lAlle de choux, which was in private ownership in France. Differences
within the Institute were further exacerbated by assessments carried out
on two watercolors in private ownership in the Netherlands as well as on
the painting Environs de Paris, which was the property of a collector in
Paris. The controversy over lAlle de choux was set in motion by an outsider
among the Van Gogh experts.

Van Dantzig
Maurits van Dantzig (1903-1960), scion of a Jewish banking family, had
been studying for a short time at the Rotterdam Commercial College when
he developed a passion for art. He enrolled at the art academy in The
Hague, then attended the Kunstgewerbeschule Charlottenburg in Berlin,
and trained as a restorer at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum. The subjective
opinions of art experts at the Wacker trial in 1932 astonished him, and he re-
sponded by developing an objective method for determining the authentic-
ity of paintings. After the publication of his book, Schilderkunst, maakwerk,
vervalsching [Painting, hackwork, forgery], he applied his method to the 116
paintings by Frans Hals that were being exhibited in 1937 to celebrate the
75th anniversary of the Gemeentelijk Museum in Haarlem. He was thun-

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. The restorer and pictologist M.M.
van Dantzig.

derstruck. According to him, no more than 33 paintings could be attributed

unreservedly to the master. The others were copies, faulty attributions or
outright forgeries. Van Dantzig published the results that same year in book
form Frans Hals: echt of onecht [Frans Hals: genuine or false] thereby
establishing his reputation as a maverick researcher.19 The year 1937 was also
the year the Museum Boijmans handed over 540,000 guilders for Christ
and the Disciples at Emmaus. Van Dantzig, who had accepted the work as
a Vermeer at first, studied the painting meticulously and concluded that it
was a fake. He sent an article to this effect to the Maandblad voor Beeldende
Kunsten, which refused to publish it.20 The time was not yet ripe for a criti-
cal approach to this masterpiece.
The war forced Van Dantzig and his family to go into hiding. Like Sand-
berg, he joined the resistance and used his knowledge of forgeries to fab-
ricate identity documents. After the war he resumed his interest in deter-
mining the authenticity of paintings, with the works of Vincent van Gogh
constituting the focus of his study. Pictology, as he called his method, was
based on identifying the essential elements in the work of a particular art-
ist. In the case of Vincent van Gogh, he distinguished more than a hundred
characteristics: 1. realism, 2. no minor details, 3. main theme as large as

van dantzig

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possible, etc. The researcher must identify each of these characteristics in
any painting attributed to Van Gogh and note them in a list. The presence
of a characteristic is indicated with a plus, its absence with a minus. The
painting is genuine if at least 75 percent of the total number of pluses and
minuses produce positive results. If not, the work cannot be attributed to
Van Gogh.
His attempts to objectify art criticism in this way were met with both
support and resistance. The fact that many rejected his ideas did not worry
him or threaten his material existence since he was financially independent.
In the eyes of the art world of the thirties and forties he was an amateur.21
The Engineer had faith in pictology though, and in 1949 he wrote to a
friend, Van Dantzig is devoting himself to evaluating brushstrokes accord-
ing to the principles of graphology. Theres a lot to it, I believe. At the mo-
ment hes assessing the authenticity of a large number of drawings and a
couple of paintings in the Stedelijk Museum (theyre not genuine).22 What
the Engineer was referring to were Marijnissens drawings and paintings. In
1952 the Institute called upon Van Dantzig to carry out the aforementioned
test assessment on the Utrillo, and during the same year he was one of the
curators of the exhibition Genuine or fake? in the Stedelijk Museum.
Writing about Van Dantzig, Sandberg said, [...] he is completely honor-
able and his method is sound.23
In 1953 he published his method in Vincent?: a new method of identifying
the artist and his work and of unmasking the forger and his products. It as-
sured him of international attention. It was also the centennial of the birth
of Vincent van Gogh, which was commemorated with an exhibition of his
work at the Stedelijk Museum, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, and
the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller. Van Dantzig caused quite a stir when he
granted an interview with Het Vrije Volk and said that one of the exhib-
ited works, The Fourteenth of July Celebration in Paris (F 222), was a fake.
The newspaper saw a big story and gave it the headline Inauthentic Van
Gogh on display at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: Fascinating compar-
ison with genuine masterpieces. Van Dantzig said that according to De la
Failles catalogue, the provenance of the canvas did not go back any further
than 1918, when it was sold at auction in Paris. That was suspicious to begin
with. But it was mainly the brushstrokes, colors, and drawing of the figures
that seemed off. According to Het Vrije Volk, once again this shows the vital

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importance of pictological analysis, the method for examining art that was
designed and developed by M.M. van Dantzig.24
Van Dantzigs tone was professional, but for the Engineer and Sand-
berg his revelation had touched a sensitive nerve. Actually they agreed with
him. They also had serious doubts about the authenticity of the painting.
Nevertheless, they hung it as a genuine Van Gogh and included it in the
catalogue.25 The Engineer defended their decision in a letter to a friend:
We did it out of consideration for the lender and to avoid causing distress
to others with him. It was tucked away in a corner, and I said no one would
notice it. Van Dantzig could have asked about it too. If youre smart you
will not write about or against Van Dantzig. The painting was requested by
Wijsenbeek [director of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague], not by me
or with my knowledge. People like Van Dantzig always feel misunderstood.
Its too bad for him; hell never get anywhere that way.26
What a remarkable defense. The Engineer speaking here is quite differ-
ent from the person who had such a fierce and principled reaction to the
inclusion of Study by Candlelight in the Van Gogh exhibition in New York.
It clearly shows how much social relationships can have an impact on ques-
tions of authenticity. One piquant detail: the disputed canvas was owned
by the heirs of A. Hahnloser. In 1930 the same Hahnloser refused to let the
Stedelijk have his Van Goghs on loan for the commemorative exhibition
because De la Faille had embarrassed him and other collectors a few months
earlier with the publication of Les faux Van Gogh (see Chapter 4).

lAlle de choux
In March 1956, the Parish art dealer Clment Altarriba went to Holland to
find an expert to examine a painting that had been attributed to Van Gogh,
lAlle de choux (73 x 61 cm). The dealer, who wanted to sell the canvas in
collaboration with the art dealer Fabiani, contacted Van Dantzig and told
him in a letter that the painting was from the collection of his father-in-law,
mile Bernard. This painter was a friend of Vincents and was regarded as
an unimpeachable source. Van Dantzig looked at the painting in Paris but
drew no conclusions and asked Altarriba to have it sent to Amsterdam so he
could conduct a more extensive stylistic analysis. This increased the costs
for the owner: after one month, transport, security deposit, customs, insur-

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ance, and assessment had already run into the hundreds of guilders. But at
the end of May, Altarriba received the results of the pictological analysis of
his painting. The outcome was positive: it was a Van Gogh. Van Dantzig
suggested that he write an article about it and also submit the canvas to
the Expertise Institute. Altarriba and Fabiani hesitated. As far as they were
concerned, the conclusion drawn by Van Dantzig who, as the author of
Vincent?, could be regarded as an authority on the work of the master, was
quite sufficient. His certificate of authenticity made the canvas marketable.
If he wanted to write an article about it, long as he did not publish
it. How could Van Dantzig be sure, asked Altarriba, that neither Sandberg
nor Vincents nephew would ever turn against the painting? If that were
to happen the painting could never be sold. If nevertheless it were sold in
the meantime, then both gentlemen could cause a great deal of trouble af-
terwards, as the history of Study by Candlelight in America demonstrated.27
Van Dantzig tried to allay Altarribas fears. Sandberg had told him, Van
Dantzig, that after the Goetz affair he and the Engineer did not want to
run the risk of being taken to court again. They were no longer issuing
judgments on authenticity but were leaving that to the people at the Ex-
pertise Institute. The Institute was founded for this very reason, wrote Van
Dantzig: to avoid affairs having to do with authenticity. Actually the In-
stitute did no more than appoint art experts to conduct well-documented

. lAlle de choux ( x cm).

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assessments. There was no need to worry about Sandberg and the Engineer
interfering with the contents of the art experts work.28 Van Dantzigs reas-
suring words were successful; Altarriba was won over. He asked the Exper-
tise Institute to carry out an assessment and sent Van Dantzigs report along
with the request. But anxiety struck again. What if the Institute experts
decided it was not a genuine Van Gogh? Van Dantzig brushed his concerns
aside. He thought it unlikely that anything would be found to contradict
his conclusions.
After three months the answer arrived from the Expertise Institute. Jaff
and Hammacher had both drawn the same conclusion: the work was not
a Van Gogh. Altarriba saw his hopes for a fat profit evaporate and wrote
to Van Dantzig, One wonders whether the word expert means anything
anymore, since it has become such a common practice among art experts to
contradict and betray each other.29 Van Dantzig was convinced, however,
that his assessment was correct; he thought the judgments of Hammacher
and Jaff were not up to the mark. He told Altarriba that he had agreed to
discuss the matter with Jaff: We both would like to know, as scholars,
whether this is a Van Gogh or not, and both of us are eager to answer the
question once and for all, if possible. Van Dantzig proposed the idea of
comparing lAlle de choux with five Van Goghs in the Stedelijk Museum.
About a hundred people would be chosen to make independent analyses
of the paintings based on a list of 20 characteristics. He got a statistician
to commit himself to evaluating their judgments.30 The plan was so costly,
however, that it made the owner balk.31 Other proposals by Van Dantzig
foundered as well. Weeks passed and nothing was done. In December 1956,
an irritated Van Dantzig asked the Institute if it accepted responsibility for
the assessments, and if so, whether it could be held accountable for them.
If not, then it really was no more than an address list of experts.32 His letter
stirred up ill feelings. The Institute did not respond, and a few months later
he and Altarriba decided to publish the assessment in Connaissance des Arts.
Jaff and Hammachers assessments would have to be included as well. Van
Dantzig sent Altarriba some comments on their assessments.
Van Dantzig, Altarriba, and Connaissance des Arts all had different rea-
sons for going to press. For Van Dantzig, an article in an art magazine was
a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the value of his method. There had
been support for pictology at exhibitions on genuine and fake art in Am-

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sterdam and New York. Newspapers published his articles. He had worked
with psychologists in conducting observational research in order to objectify
artistic analysis.33 In his eyes, however, all this attention and recognition
paled in comparison with the seriousness and scale of the forgeries being
perpetrated. Art experts, he believed, were failing to be systematic about
their assessments. Three years had passed since the publication of his Vin-
cent? without the art world recognizing the value of pictology as a research
method. Altarriba, on the other hand, had no interest in developing a more
systematic approach to the assessment of art. He wanted to use Van Dantzigs
detailed analysis to demonstrate the Institutes incompetence. If he succeed-
ed, he believed, it would reverse the unfavorable verdict on the authenticity
of lAlle de choux. Connaissance des Arts saw news value in the contradictory
judgments of leading Van Gogh authorities. Experts arguing over the same
work of art in public was not something that happened every day.
In July 1957 Van Dantzig asked Altarriba to send his article, his assess-
ment, and his comments to Hammacher and Jaff, and in doing so he com-
mitted a blunder. In fact he was handing over control of the publication to
Altarriba and the editors of Connaissance des Arts. The editors did not ask
Hammacher and Jaff for permission to publish, however, and the two were
totally unaware of what was coming. To the consternation of the Expert
Institute, Jaff, and Hammacher, the pieces appeared in the October 1957
issue of Connaissance des Arts under the title Expertise et contre-expertise
dun van Gogh. Nor was the difference of opinion limited to this French
professional journal. In the Netherlands, Het Vrije Volk published an article
on the same subject. It reminded readers that in 1956 Van Dantzig had
made the spectacular discovery that ten of the hundred paintings at the big
Rembrandt exhibition were fakes, and that in 1954 he had declared that half
the paintings at a Rubens exhibition were not genuine. The newspaper also
managed to coax a statement on lAlle de choux from De la Faille: The
painting is by Van Gogh, but the upper part may be the work of another
hand. The newspaper summarized the judgments of the experts in a box:
Two experts: NO; Third expert: YES; Fourth expert: HALF. Van Dantzig
told Het Vrije Volk that the assessments of Hammacher, Jaff, and De la
Faille actually did not count. He was using a scientific method, while they
were following a purely subjective approach: I regret to say that some of
the things they are writing are irresponsible.34

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Jaff and Hammacher were irate. Whether they took offence at the ac-
cusation of irresponsible behavior is unknown, but they did have another
reason to be indignant. The publication of their assessment constituted
an infringement of their right as authors to determine whether and what
they were going to publish. But as often happens in such cases, this slip-
up, which they blamed on Van Dantzig, overshadowed any actual prob-
lems. How should the authenticity of the works attributed to Van Gogh
be established? Was it possible to purify his oeuvre without publicity? How
should contradictory assessments be dealt with? Van Dantzig, however, had
botched things up with the Institute for good. He received no more requests
to conduct authenticity studies. Sandberg let his former brother-in-arms
know that the Institute had no more need of his services. After accepting
Van Dantzigs apology, Jaff appeared ready to continue discussing pictol-
ogy and lAlle de choux with him, but Van Dantzigs premature death in
1960 at age 57 left those plans unfulfilled.

In March 1957, the owner of two watercolors asked the Expertise Institute for
a judgment on their authenticity. The works has been in the family for quite
a long time, and tradition had it that they were Van Goghs. The Institute
asked Victorine Bakker-Hefting, former director of the Gemeentemuseum
in The Hague, to do the research. After a few weeks she came forward with
a fully documented answer: as far as she could tell the watercolors were by
Vincent van Gogh. The board raised objections to her conclusion, however,
thereby violating its own rule never to pass any judgments of its own. It did
not send the report to the owner but decided to ask another expert to make
an assessment of the watercolors, in this case the art historian Professor J.G.
van Gelder of the University of Utrecht. His conclusion: This is not Van
Goghs work. The Expertise Institute kept the Bakker-Hefting report under
wraps and sent only the Van Gelder report to the owner. Many months later,
in March 1958, De Sablonire reminded the Engineer of the boards interven-
tion, but he responded with, That matter with the watercolors was ridicu-
lous to begin with you can hardly call that intervention by the board!35
This reaction provides us with an unexpected peek behind the scenes of
the Institute. Officially, the board did not pass judgment on the authentic-


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ity of works of art that were given to the Institute for assessment. The board
saw to it that the argumentation in the experts reports was sound, and to
the outside world it always insisted that the Institute maintained a strict
division between the tasks of the board and those of the experts. Accord-
ing to Institute documents, however, this was far from the case. In 1965 a
curator from the Stedelijk Museum was asked to conduct an assessment of
a painting that supposedly was a Van Gogh. In his report to the Institute
he wrote, Engineer V.W. van Gogh, to whom I showed the painting, con-
cluded without hesitation that it was a forgery.36 In 1959 the Swedish am-
bassador asked for an assessment of a pastel drawing. He himself suspected
that it was not the work of Van Gogh. Sandberg wrote him back, saying that
he and Jaff had studied the work and both were of the opinion that indeed
it was not a Van Gogh.37 These cases show that there never was a watertight
division between the experts and the board. The board members probably
worked on a case-by-case basis, deciding how formal their response would
have to be toward owners and experts.

Les environs de Paris

In 1956 the Paris art dealer Alfred Loeb paid ten million francs (a cool
155,000 euros in todays money) for the painting Les environs de Paris, which
he attributed to Vincent van Gogh. He discovered the remains of a signa-
ture on the canvas: the letters n and t were purportedly still visible.
The French restorer, Professor N. Cordovado, whom Loeb commissioned
to clean and restore the canvas, seconded his opinion. Up until then the
painting had not been mentioned or reproduced in any publication about
Van Gogh. In June 1957 Loeb asked the Expertise Institute to carry out an
assessment of the painting. The Institute proposed that he have the paint-
ing examined by two experts in the Netherlands at the cost of 300 guilders.
He would also be charged for transport and insurance. This increased the
costs considerably for Loeb, but he knew it was a good investment. A cer-
tificate of authenticity would certainly yield double the purchase price of
the canvas.
The Expertise Institute asked Jaff and Hammacher to make an assess-
ment of Les environs de Paris. First Jaff studied the canvas and drew up a
tentative report. His point of departure was the knowledge that Loeb had

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attributed the painting to Van Gogh. With this in mind, he compared the
painting with another work from Vincents Paris period in the Stedelijk
Museum. According to him there were major differences in brushstroke
technique between the two paintings. Jaff also saw differences in the way
the sky and the rest of Les environs de Paris had been painted, but he was
not in a position to unravel its structure, not having the technical means to
do so. In the lower left- and right-hand corners, where painters usually put
their signature, he saw overpainting. But he could find no traces of a legible
Jaffs conclusion, which he regarded as tentative, was that this prob-
ably was not the work of Van Gogh. To be sure, the painting showed great
similarity in interpretation and technique with that of the master, but
numerous retouches had been applied to make it look even more like a
work by Vincent. The painting was probably the early work of one of Vin-
cents contemporaries, Paul Signac. He wrote: It would not surprise me if
examination by the Rijksmuseum were to reveal his signature and a date of
about 1885 or 86.38 So Jaff took the initiative to have infrared photos and
X-rays of the painting made in the laboratory of the Rijksmuseum. The
anticipated results failed to appear, however.39 The painting was then sent
to the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller for assessment.
Hammacher saw a resemblance between the brushstrokes of Les environs
de Paris and those of other paintings from Vincents Paris period in the
Krller-Mller collection. The working of the landscape, which took up
most of the painting, showed a great variation in color and brushstroke
technique. Sometimes the direction of the strokes is flat and unvarying,
sometimes it is lively; the light red touches scattered across the greens and
ochres are exquisite.40 It is striking that Jaff and Hammacher were focus-
ing on the same features brushstroke and color thereby taking notice of
practically the same details of the painting technique, but with very differ-
ent interpretations.
By late October the Expertise Institute had two reports: one that tenta-
tively doubted the authenticity of the painting and one that unreservedly
confirmed it. The Institute told Loeb that the two experts could not agree
on whether his painting was a genuine Van Gogh or not, so a third expert
would have to be called in. It proposed that a scientific analysis be carried
out which, by the way, would cost Loeb even more money. Loeb hurried


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to the Netherlands for a talk with the chairman of the Expertise Institute
and agreed to a third assessment. He was not shown the reports submitted
by Jaff and Hammacher.
The third assessment, conducted by W. Froentjes and A.M. de Wild, was
ready by December 1957, but the magic words were not forthcoming. Ac-
cording to their report, the possibility that the painting came from the time
of Van Gogh could not be ruled out, but they were unable to answer the
burning question, Which artist made it? So what the Expertise Institute
ended up with was a technical report that neither denied nor confirmed the
works authenticity. Jaff was told the result and drew up his final report,
which he sent to the Institute in early January 1958. He wrote that the brush
technique, style, and color precluded any possibility that Van Gogh was
the painter of Les environs de Paris. He abandoned the earlier suggestion in
his tentative report: that the canvas was made by the young Paul Signac.
Now he saw a connection with the work of another contemporary, Charles
Angrand (1854-1926), and hoped that an upcoming conversation between
Sandberg and the painters nephew Louis Angrand would produce definite
results.41 Loeb learned about this from Slagter, the board chairman, and
beat Sandberg to the punch. Loeb visited Louis Angrand and showed him a
color photo of Les environs de Paris, which Angrand said he did not recog-
nize as a painting made by his uncle.42
These were dicult times for the Expertise Institute. By May 1958 the re-
search that was supposed to have been nished within a few weeks according
to the agreement had already lasted a year, without producing a unanimous
answer. The Institute told Loeb that the painting could not be attributed to
Van Gogh, and handed him only Jas second, negative report.43

In February 1958, four months after the publication of the assessments on
lAlle de choux in Connaissance des Arts, and with contradictory assessments
on Les environs de Paris, secretary De Sablonire wrote to the board of the
Expertise Institute, telling them that these problems exposed the short-
comings of the Institute. The goal of establishing a national institute, the
Central Expertise Bureau, had not been achieved. Recognition had failed
to materialize. She recalled the clash with Van Dantzig. Granted, he had

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written a discourteous letter, but he had called a spade a spade. Was the
Institute nothing but a mouthpiece for experts, or did it have authority
over the assessments it commissioned and if so, on what basis? Her judg-
ment was harsh: The Institute is vulnerable to criticism of every kind.44
She wanted to resign her position. Was the announcement of her departure
actually meant as a decision, or did she want to cast the matter in high re-
lief in order to provoke a discussion? There is reason to suspect the latter,
since she then met personally with a few of the board members (but not the
Engineer) and wrote that right from the start the board was gripped by
a certain unwillingness to establish a clearly defined basis and guidelines.
Perhaps this had to do with a controversy among the members themselves
(although Engineer Van Gogh was probably the only one who refused to
bear any responsibility, with all the consequences that this entails), which
is why the matter was constantly being shoved aside (it was instinctive).45
This was followed a few days later by a long statement by chairman
Slagter concerning the vulnerable position of the Institute: It is depen-
dent on the goodwill of the Stedelijk Museum, which receives, preserves,
and transports the works of art. It builds on the work of experts who may
receive an honorarium but ultimately do the work voluntarily. Then there
are the difficult relationships between the board members and the Council
of Advocacy, and the poor attendance at meetings. The greatest handicap
was the absence of rules for dealing with assessments. The question of the
two watercolors and Les environs de Paris was what really rankled him: We
did not foresee the problems that would arise if two experts had differing
opinions. [...] If the board were to bear no responsibility toward the owner
and the Institute were only an intermediary agency, it would have to pass
contradictory reports on to the owner.46
On 24 March 1958, the executive committee, consisting of the chairman,
secretary, and Sandberg, proposed to suspend assessments and observe a long
period of reection. After one year, in 1959, a decision would then be made
concerning the continued existence of the Institute. The obstacles of the last
years had been too big to carry on with business as usual. The heart of the
problem was the disagreement between experts and the absence of the kind
of authority needed to force a consensus. Science was not the answer: There
is no objective scientic method for making assessments (the only method
that might make a claim to this area of competence is based on inadequate-


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ly founded premises). So much for Van Dantzig. The committee did see
quite some potential in assessments, however, if they were carried out within
a well-attended institute of art history at one or more Dutch universities
where the professor-director has the authority to supervise the research.47
The Engineer was not impressed by the executive committees criticism
and would not hear of suspending activities. He asked secretary De Sa-
blonire to send a memo from his hand to the board. She carried out his
instructions, but sent the memo to only a few board members interspersed
with her own handwritten comments. In the memo the Engineer suggested
turning the secretarial work over to a lawyer. With a different secretariat,
he wrote, we would have no more difficulties. Here De Sablonire added
...of another character (preferably no character). The Engineer saw noth-
ing in the idea of teamwork as proposed by Slagter: [...] teamwork usually
leads to disappointment and poor results in the most diverse cases and cir-
cumstances that is my experience as arbiter, advisor, experts, etc. [...]. He
agreed with Slagter that there was no scientific, objective method for deter-
mining authenticity. But according to the Engineer, the Institute derived its
raison dtre from the absence of such methods. He also dismissed Slagters
idea of thenceforth commissioning institutes of art history to conduct re-
search on authenticity, supervised by an authorized professor-director. The
criticism expressed by Slagter, De Sablonire, and Sandberg concerning the
Institutes lack of authority could also be read in another way: as criticism of
the authority of the Engineer that is, being an owner of his uncles paint-
ings and drawings while making statements about the authenticity of his
work. But the nephew would hear none of it. He found the results of the
Institute satisfactory, or even more than that.48
The discussion dragged on for a few months without the executive com-
mittee and the Engineer reaching common ground. They did agree on one
point: in the event of a conict between experts, no rules could be formulat-
ed that would determine which assessments would have to be accepted and
which ones rejected. So should the owner be sent contradictory assessments?
The problem with that, according to Slagter, was that an owner could sell
the work of art in bad faith along with the report most advantageous to him,
even if the board could not accept such a report.49 The Engineer proposed
that owners be charged much more for assessments. That would lighten the
Institutes workload considerably, since owners would think twice before

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requesting an assessment. But this was at odds with the Institutes most basic
ideal: to keep the oeuvre of Dutch artists pure. With costs too high, many
fake paintings would remain in circulation. The chairman announced his
departure, but he died on 6 August 1958 before he could carry out his deci-
sion. Secretary De Sablonire left the Institute in early 1959.
Addressing the crisis, the Expertise Institutes annual report of 1957/58
said, Although the Institute still had some bugs to iron out, albeit to a lesser
extent, it easily proved that it was vigorous enough to withstand them. Com-
menting on Les environs de Paris, the annual report stated, With regard to
one painting sent to us from France and attributed to Van Gogh, research
by two experts, together with scientic analysis, was unfortunately unable to
provide sucient clarity.50 What this sentence does not say is that the Insti-
tute had sent the French owner of Les environs de Paris a negative report.
The years after 1959 passed without incident for the Expertise Institute.
With the onset of the sixties, board members were less and less willing to
spend time evaluating reports. The secretary complained that they seldom
reacted to the reports she circulated. The board was satisfied with the ad-
vancements being made in the old-fashioned certificates, however: one-line
declarations of authenticity without any detailed argumentation. It also be-
lieved that the Institutes existence was having a preventive impact on own-
ers all-too-effortless claims that their works of art were masterpieces. There
were no more discussions of the Institutes founding principles, however, or
of the rise of scientific assessments until 1972, the year that assessments were
actually suspended. That was when the long-term loan and exhibition of the
collection of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation in the Stedelijk Museum
came to an end, and the works were moved to the brand new Rijksmuseum
Vincent van Gogh next door. The move coincided with the decline of the
activities of the Expertise Institute,51 thereby revealing that maintaining the
Engineers authority and protecting him from disappointed owners was a
function of the Institute. This function was taken over in 1972 by the Neth-
erlands Institute for Art History the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische
Documentatie, or RKD which because of the posthumous publication of
De la Failles Van Gogh catalogue raisonn would now serve as an important
authority on authenticity. The Engineer supported this changing of the
guard, since he himself had referred people to the RKD when they asked for
an assessment of a Van Gogh.52


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Protection and publicity
The Engineer held a key position among the post-war Van Gogh experts.
Ownership, guardianship, blood relationship, and knowledge made him an
authority in the Van Gogh world. He saw it as his responsibility to protect
the integrity of the oeuvre of his uncle and namesake. His positive pro-
nouncements on the authenticity of works of art attributed to Van Gogh
by owners and experts were given great value. On the other hand, nega-
tive pronouncements could have far-reaching consequences, both for the
owners whose property was thereby devalued and for the experts who felt
their opinion and authority had been tarnished. We know from the history
of post-war Van Gogh controversies that denying authenticity had adverse
consequences for the Engineer himself, an obvious example being the con-
flict over Study by Candlelight. The Expertise Institute protected him and
other connoisseurs from the demands of troublesome, disappointed own-
ers. His conviction that assessments could be substantiated, but could not
result in certainty, placed limits on the discussion over authenticity.
Van Dantzig, on the other hand, believed that his brainchild pictol-
ogy was the only correct basis for determining authenticity. He asked
the question, How can certainty over the authenticity of a painting be
obtained, and what method should be used? I lack the competence to de-
cide whether the answer pictology is correct or not. Nor is it relevant
to the central question of the present study, although it is puzzling that, as
a restorer, Van Dantzig did not devote any space to chemical and physical
analysis in determining authenticity. For the same reason we can skip the
question of how effective he was in applying his method.53 What is impor-
tant is his conviction that it should be possible to write freely and openly
about the authenticity of works of art. This is the only way that knowledge
of art assessment and of the artistic oeuvre can be increased, he believed.
Here, it can be argued, lies the key to the misunderstanding between the
Expertise Institute and Van Dantzig. The goal of the Institute, after all, was
to provide the owner with a sound and unbiased assessment. The Institute
applied knowledge. It was a service that was provided for a fee to the owner,
whose concern was that the transaction take place in privacy. So what Van
Dantzig wanted was incompatible with the goal of the Institute.
This is only one side of the story, however. The other was concerned
with purifying the work of artists by routing out forgeries. During the crisis

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of 1957-58, the secretary and chairman called this the higher aim of the
Institute. Such a pursuit was bound to involve publicity, as well as reflec-
tion on the actual basis of assessments and the most appropriate research
methods. Van Dantzig had to pay for his criticism with exclusion. Chair-
man Slagter and secretary De Sablonire stepped aside. The authority of the
Engineer, based on blood relationship, ownership, and knowledge, proved
strong enough to allow the Expertise Institute to function according to his
ideas. He did not have to worry about criticism. After efforts to set up a
state-sponsored central expertise bureau failed followed by the Expertise
Institutes lack of recognition, at least he could depend on the Institute to
safeguard him from the demands of troublesome owners.

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10 The gift

The prices of paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh increased steadi-
ly over the twentieth century, so owners, dealers, and auction houses could
expect to earn a great deal of money by selling them. This price rise explains
why conflicts over authenticity could become so heated. The buyer would
convert money into an object under the assumption that in due course it
would bring in even more money. It was an investment. If he should find
himself in financial straits, the work of art could be offered as security. He
could use it as a tax write-off by donating it to a museum. While all this is
true, seeing art purchases in purely financial terms is not enough to explain
the experiences of art experts who became involved in such conflicts. What
could happen to them is not the same as what happens to the bank em-
ployee who discovers counterfeit notes. Disputes over genuine and fake Van
Goghs had far-reaching ramifications that were not limited to the financial
arena but were played out in political, social, psychological, aesthetic, legal,
and moral realms as well. The consequences for the art expert were just as
widespread. He might find himself in a situation in which his income, his
job, and his reputation were threatened. The same was true if a Van Gogh
changed hands not by being sold but by being donated.
In The Gift of 1924, the French anthropologist Marcel Mauss argues that
giving plays a key role in societies regarded as primitive (the Kwakiutl
Indians of the Pacific Northwest in North America, the Melanesians of the
Trobriand Islands, and others) and archaic (Germanic tribes, the Romans,
and Hindus). Giving connects both people and groups, he says, and reflects
vastly diverse aspects of human society: it is a total social phenomenon.1
Although Mauss pays little attention to modern industrial societies, his
ideas shed an interesting light on relations in the art world, where exchange
relationships also play a prominent role. Anyone with a large, beautiful col-

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lection can count on attracting the interest of museums and auction houses.
Such a collector is granted a place in the hierarchy of the art world and may
also receive the occasional honor. He creates a position of power if he owns
a great many valuable works of art and holds out the prospect of making
donations: he acquires followers. By making donations he imposes obliga-
tions on the recipient, forcing him to behave in specific ways. The gift binds
the recipient to the giver.
But what should a person do if he is convinced that he has been given
a forged work of art? While give it back would seem the most obvious
answer, such a response fails to address the complex social character of art
donation, as we saw in the dilemmas faced by the directors of the National
Gallery of Art in Washington with Self-Portrait at the Easel. But what if
there is not such a glaring power imbalance, as there was between Chester
Dale and John Walker (see Chapter 7)? Wouldnt that make it a bit easier to
return the fake work and remove it from the masters oeuvre? As the contro-
versy surrounding the painting The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy (F
659) shows, it was far from easy for the recipient, in this case Engineer V.W.
van Gogh, to present the donor with unwelcome tidings. This episode also
reveals the cautious behavior of those who in turn did not agree with the

Gachet Junior and Senior

On 20 May 1890, Vincent van Gogh arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise and became
acquainted with Dr. Paul Gachet (1828-1909), his daughter Marguerite
(1869-1949), and son Paul (1873-1962). Under the nom de plume Blanche
de Mzin, Gachet Senior wrote medical books and art criticism. Like Paul
van Ryssel, he made etchings and drawings and was also a painter and copy-
ist. Gachet enjoyed a certain celebrity status among French modern paint-
ers. He was one of the first to appreciate the painting of the Impressionists
and to begin collecting their work. In exchange for medical treatment, he
was given drawings and paintings by Czanne, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir,
and others. Vincent van Gogh presented him with works as well, although
he was not a patient. After Vincents death on 29 July 1890, Gachet pre
received a few more paintings from Theo van Gogh as a way of thanking
him for his care.

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After Theo died on 25 January 1891, the Gachets kept in touch with
Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. They corresponded about the maintenance of
Vincents grave in Auvers-sur-Oise and exchanged bits of news about the
fortunes of their loved ones. Paul Gachet fils continued the correspondence
with Johanna after the death of his father in 1909. They finally met in April
1914 when the body of Theo was moved from Utrecht to Auvers-sur-Oise
and buried next to Vincent. In a letter to De la Faille in 1924, Johanna
called Gachet an exceptionally amiable man, someone who had devoted
himself entirely to the cult of Van Gogh.2 After her death, the Engineer
continued the correspondence, and he and his children visited Marguerite
and Paul Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise. The exchange of letters between the
Engineer and Gachet bespoke respect and trust. Their letters were affec-
tionate and polite they used the formal you, but that was customary at
the time and related their personal ups and downs. Above all, they wrote
to each other about Vincent van Gogh.
But after about 40 years in 1954 the Engineer came to feel that Ga-
chet fils was no longer a man with a selfless devotion to Van Gogh, and he
totally washed his hands of him. Many years later he went so far as to call
him highly unreliable, and in 1974 the Engineer would describe his view
of the Gachets as follows:

Gachets father did not think it necessary to have his children learn a trade or
profession. [...] The father taught Paul Gachet etching and how to pull prints.
With regard to the etching depicting Dr. Gachet, De la Faille once published an
article on why it could not have been an etching by Vincent. Paul Gachet made
many prints from that plate and sold them. He spent his whole life living o
his father, and for him the only artists that mattered were those his father had
known. He held onto the apartment in which his father had had his practice for
a very long time. It was in Paris, not very far from Gare du Nord. Until his death
he walked around in the winter coat that his father had worn in the war of 1870.3

The description of the Gachets contained in these sentences is the very op-
posite of the Engineers life and attitudes. Gachet Senior neglected what Jo-
hanna van Gogh-Bonger strove to achieve: making sure your child learned
a profession.4 Gachet Junior did something that the Engineer actively op-
posed: he lived off another mans glory. Gachet Junior never stopped wear-

gachet junior and senior

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ing his fathers coat, while the Engineer made a career for himself as a
management consultant. Paul Gachets taste, essentially progressive and
nineteenth-century, was that of his father, who had died in 1909. But the
Engineer provided the Stedelijk Museum with financial support for the
purchase of contemporary art, and in launching the Museumjournaal he
hoped to publicize the work of twentieth-century artists as well.5 Gachet fils
knowingly made and sold prints from an etching fraudulently attributed to
Vincent van Gogh, while the Engineer worked through the Expertise Insti-
tute to protect his uncles oeuvre from forgeries. And then there was the air
of secrecy (not mentioned in the quoted passage) in which Gachet shrouded
his fathers collection. He showed his Van Goghs to only a few interested
persons; hanging on the door to the room containing the Van Goghs was a
sign bearing the words Ne reoit pas (Do not enter). The paintings could
not be photographed, and only a few had been shown in exhibitions. The
Engineer, on the other hand, continued his mothers policy of making the
Van Goghs in Europe and the US accessible to everyone by means of exhibi-
tions, catalogues, newspaper articles, and reproductions. Even more to Ga-
chet Juniors detriment were the many other forged works that, according
to the Engineer, he had sold in addition to the etching. In fact, Gachet had
been so brazen as to donate some of them to French museums and to put
his good friend the Engineer, guardian of Vincents legacy, in a difficult
position in 1954 by giving him a fake Van Gogh as well, The Garden of the
Asylum in Saint-Rmy (F 659).

When did the Engineer become convinced that Gachets Van Gogh collec-
tion consisted mostly of fakes, and how did he reach that conclusion? All
the facts suggest that a sudden reversal occurred in the days after 12 June
1954 that is, after the arrival of The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy (F
659) in the Stedelijk Museum. There is no letter or other document from
before that date indicating that the Engineer had doubted the authentic-
ity of one or more paintings from the Gachet collection, although he vis-
ited Gachet Senior the year of his death and afterwards met with his son
and daughter a few times in Auvers-sur-Oise. Undoubtedly he would have
looked at the paintings of his famous uncle.

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. Paul Gachet and the portrait of his
father in the lOrangerie des Tuileries in
. The text above the painting reads
Donated by Miss Marguerite Gachet
and Mr. Paul Gachet.

The donation was preceded six years earlier by a proposal from the En-
gineer. In May 1948 he asked Gachet if he would like to place his Van
Gogh paintings in the care of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, which the
Engineer said had been founded to avoid tax difficulties and inheritance
problems. In 1948, he was 58 years old and Gachet 75. The reference to the
inheritance tax clearly shows that the Engineer expected his collection to be
divided among his wife and children, and that pieces would have to be sold
to pay that tax. That would have meant the end of the collection. Paul and
Marguerite Gachet were childless, but their collection would also probably
be divided up after their death.
The Engineer wrote that the purpose of the foundation was to put to-
gether a fine collection to the greater glory of Vincent.6 He repeated his
offer in January of the following year. Gachet welcomed the establishment
of the foundation but did not respond to the Engineers question. He had
plans of his own.


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In 1949 Paul and Marguerite Gachet donated two of their Van Goghs to
the Louvre: Portrait of Doctor Gachet (F 754) and Self-Portrait (F 627), as
well as a painting by Armand Guillaumin. The gift took many by surprise
and was the first of a series of donations to French museums that included
works by Paul Czanne, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Guillaumin,
and others. In 1952 Gachet (his sister had died in the meantime) gave Van
Goghs The Church at Auvers (F 789) to the French state, a gesture that at-
tracted a great deal of attention since this picture had not been shown to
the public before.7 The newspapers called it a donation, but in fact Gachet
had sold the canvas to an anonymous Canadian, who in turn gave it to the
Louvre.8 It was accompanied by a donation of what De Waarheid called
true art relics: Van Goghs palette, squeezed tubes of paint and the plate
for his only etching.9 The exhibition of these things at the Jeu de Paume
exposed what De Gruyter regarded as a bizarre fetish industry, but at the
same time he wrote of being deeply impressed by The Church at Auvers and
Portrait of Doctor Gachet.10 In 1954 Gachet donated more works from his
collection, including five paintings and a drawing by Van Gogh. One of the
paintings, Roses and Anemones (F 764), had never been shown in public or
photographed before.11 It was a big story for the French newspapers, which
valued the entire donation at more than 100 million francs.
The donations happened to coincide with a great to-do over Gachet Junior
and Senior, however. In 1949 a booklet appeared by the Surrealist Antonin
Artaud, Vincent van Gogh, le suicid de la societ (Vincent Van Gogh: The
Man Suicided by Society), in which Artaud blamed the death of Van Gogh
on the failure of Dr. Paul Gachet and even suggested that his actions were
intentional. The piece can be dismissed as the ravings of a disordered mind:
Artaud had spent many years as a patient in a mental institution. In 1953
Louis Anfray, a former naval ocer with a great interest in Van Gogh, criti-
cized the etching from Gachets collection depicting Dr. Gachet smoking a
pipe. According to the inscription, Vincent made the etching on 15 May
1890, although he had spent that day in the south of France and would not
become acquainted with Gachet until ve days later. Anfray also doubted the
authenticity of the painting Portrait of Doctor Gachet (F 754), a repetition of
a portrait with the same name (F 753) in the collection of Siegfried Kramar-
sky of New York. In May 1954 De la Faille alerted the Engineer to Anfrays
articles and thought it would be dicult for Gachet to refute the criticism.

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The Engineer let it pass. From May 1948, i.e. from the moment he pro-
posed that Paul Gachet put his Van Goghs in the care of the Vincent van
Gogh Foundation along with his own, until the end of April 1954, these al-
legations seem to have had no effect on him. There is nothing in his letters
to Gachet and others to suggest that he disapproved of Gachets gifts to the
French state. On the contrary, he applauded Gachets gesture.12 In a letter
to the Engineer, Gachet defended his donations to the French state with
the argument that Vincent should be represented in France in a dignified
manner: it is his second homeland!13 Nor did Gachet forget the Engineers
offer of 1948. On 12 April 1954, he wrote him, But I would like my name,
too, to appear in the foundation you have set up in Amsterdam, and to that
end I would like to donate a very beautiful and important painting (0.72 x
0.90) The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy (F 659).14

. The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy (F ), . x . cm. Van Gogh



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The Engineer thanked him for this magnificent gift and wrote him
that the foundation would make him an honorary member (conseiller
dhonneur). The painting was delivered to the Stedelijk Museum on 5
June. One month later, on 3 July 1954, Gachet actually received the cer-
tificate of honorary membership, which was quite remarkable in view of
the fact that in the meantime the Engineer had become convinced that in
giving him The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy, Gachet had donated a
fake Van Gogh.

On 16 and 17 June (that is, a week and a half after the painting arrived in
Amsterdam) the Dutch newspapers reported the donation an extraor-
dinary acquisition and published photos of the painting. De Volkskrant
wrote of a hitherto unknown painting by Van Gogh.15 That was not cor-
rect, for De la Faille had written about it in his catalogues of 1928 and 1939.
But like so many others, he had not been given permission by Gachet fils
to photograph the canvas, so it was not reproduced in his catalogues. The
newspapers bungled other facts as well. Dr. Gachets place of residence was
correctly reported as Auvers-sur-Oise, but as a physician he would have
treated Vincent after his suicide in Saint-Rmy, about 750 kilometers fur-
ther south.16 The most important point, however, is that the Engineer does
not seem to have shared his doubts about the authenticity of the painting
with any journalist.
How did the Engineer arrive at his negative assessment? He did not take
any notes in June 1954 about what he had seen. The first brief description
dates from December 1966, but it is of little help. He was familiar with
another painting (F 660) of the same name, the same composition, and the
same dimensions, however, which was painted in 1889. It had hung in his
parents home and was sold by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger to the collector
Karl Osthaus in 1912. In 1954 it was on display in the Museum Folkwang
in Essen. The Engineer would have noticed that there were differences be-
tween the two canvases, but that alone would not be saying much since
Vincents repeated renderings of the same subject were always different.
In which differences did the Engineer detect the hand of another paint-
er? What decisive factor led him to call the painting a fake? The statements

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he made in the fifties are general and provide no insight into his observa-
tions. In 2001, after conducting historical, stylistic, and technical analyses
of The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy, Hendriks and Van Tilborgh,
restorer and curator at the Van Gogh Museum respectively, concluded that
the painting is a genuine Van Gogh, although the canvas clearly differs from
the one in Essen. That does not necessarily indicate a forgery. They wrote
that the Engineers negative views may have been a response to things Ga-
chet wrote about Van Gogh in 1953-54 and about his behavior toward the
press.17 Gachet had written that he, like the Engineer, was the only living
person who had had a direct tie with the painter. This would have made
the Engineer jealous. Although that is a possible explanation, the problem
is that the exchange of letters that took place between Gachet and the En-
gineer in 1953 and early 1954 was very cordial. Gachet attended the open-
ing of the Van Gogh exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague in
the spring of 1953, and the Engineer urged Gachet to come stay with him,
which he did. Does a jealous person behave in such a way?
Back to June 1954. The Engineer decided to have the picture exam-
ined, but not by the Expertise Institute. He gave the job to someone at the
Stedelijk Museum, whose verdict was consistent with his own: not a Van
Gogh. The Engineer also had the canvas looked at by J.C. Traas, who passed
the opposite judgment: the painting was definitely by Van Gogh.18 For the
Engineer, this contrasting opinion was no reason to offer the picture to
the Expertise Institute. The painting probably hung in the galleries of the
Stedelijk Museum for only a very short time, if at all. The Engineer stored
it away in the vault.
At a certain point the Engineer got in touch with Jacques Latour, director
of the Muse Rattu in Arles, who suggested he have detailed photographs
taken of the painting in Essen as well as the one in Amsterdam. The photos
clearly showed differences in the brushstrokes, which according to Latour
were an indication that the paintings were not made by the same hand. The
Engineer agreed with him and was seconded by Herbert Graetz, an entre-
preneur living in Switzerland who at that moment was evaluating the work
of Van Gogh by means of psychoanalysis. In 1955 Graetz wrote to Sandberg,
telling him that Latours photos proved that the picture was a fake. He also
had serious doubts about a few other Van Goghs hanging in the Louvre.19
De la Faille planned to demote a number of Gachet Van Goghs and not


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to include them in the revised edition of the catalogue raisonn, though
whether he discussed this with the Engineer or not is unknown. At least
the Engineer did not correspond with him about The Garden of the Asylum
in Saint-Rmy, as far as I can tell. Nor did he discuss it with Jaff, who also
kept his opinion of the Engineers assessment to himself. Clearly the Engi-
neer was not alone in his judgment of the painting, but during the fifties
he received no support for his negative opinion from any authoritative Van
Gogh experts.
The Engineer decided to visit Paul Gachet in order to question him
about The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy, and he wanted to bring
Sandberg and Graetz along. He also wanted to invite Latour and the French
art dealer David Wildenstein, who were friends of Gachet. Gachets answer,
sent via Wildenstein, was that he refused to meet with anyone.20 In 1961,
shortly before Gachets death, a meeting finally took place between Gachet
and the Engineer. How this conversation proceeded is unknown, but the
Engineer did not change his mind afterward concerning the authenticity of
the painting.21
Starting in 1954 the Engineer gradually became more and more certain
about which canvases were forged and which were genuine. On 8 August
1959, he declared Two Children (F 783) to be fake: It may have been made
by one of the Gachets or by Schuffenecker, in which case the Gachets would
have made the copy.22 On 3 December 1965 he planned to visit a German
art dealer who owned some of the works from Gachets legacy. He wanted to
see them partly with an eye to the source of the forgeries.23 In 1971 he came
upon a calculation that reinforced his unfavorable opinion of the Gachets
Van Goghs: In the new [Van Gogh catalogue raisonn], 75 new paintings
are listed from the Auvers period plus 31 drawings. Vincent was in Auvers
from 25 May to 30 July. A few days must be subtracted from this for a visit
to Paris, a visit from Theo to Auvers, etc. No one can fool me into thinking
that Vincent painted 75 paintings in less than 66 days, with time left over
for letters to Theo with sketches.24
On 7 February 1974, almost 20 years after The Garden of the Asylum in
Saint-Rmy had been donated, the Engineer took stock of the situation.
He was convinced that none of the Gachet Van Gogh paintings in the Jeu
de Paume was genuine except for The Church at Auvers (F 789) and Self-
Portrait (F 627). There were two other Van Gogh paintings from Gachets

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collection that he also thought were genuine: Marguerite Gachet at the Piano
(F 772) at the Kunsthalle in Basel and Cows (after Jordaens) (F 822) at the
Muse des Beaux-Arts in Lille. While others had backed him in the inter-
vening years, there were also those who disagreed with him.

Writing about a conversation with his friend and Van Gogh expert Marc
Tralbaut in 1959, the Engineer said, I asked him cautiously what his opin-
ion was of the paintings in the Jeu de Paume. He was very evasive: some of
them were weak, etc. He would have to consult his notes. When asked di-
rectly about the background of the self-portrait, he admitted that an origi-
nal background could be seen beneath the wavy lines. An investigation of
the hardening properties of the paint might reveal when the new layer had
been applied.25 It was clear: Tralbaut would rather not voice his opinion
about the authenticity of the Gachet Van Goghs. Nowhere is there any in-
dication, moreover, that Tralbaut shared the Engineers convictions on this
point. On the contrary, eight years later Tralbaut sent him a business gift:

. M.E. Tralbaut visiting Paul Gachet in



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a small book of essays about Van Gogh in which he discussed the Gachet
Van Goghs and defended Gachet against those who accused him of own-
ing forged work. He recalled that the Engineer had once consigned The
Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy (F 659) to the vault of the Stedelijk.
The statements made in the press on the spuriousness of the Gachet Van
Goghs, which Tralbaut thought were unfounded, had not done the Engi-
neer any good. Tralbaut called him suspicious and not very sociable.26
The Engineer responded immediately. It wasnt suspicion that struck him
when he first saw the painting in 1954, but doubt. He wrote to Tralbaut, It
shocked me, and I thought about it later that evening. The next morning I
called [Sandberg] to share my doubts with him. Then I started investigat-
ing, which confirmed my initial impression. [...] You are the first person
to report the existence of my assessment in print. I never withheld it from
my acquaintances, but I never published anything about it either. While he
[Gachet] was alive I thought it best not to cause sensation at his expense.27
The death of De la Faille in 1959 kept him from including his judg-
ment of The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy and other Van Goghs from
Gachets collection in the third edition of the catalogue raisonn, but the
Dutch government appointed an editorial committee to compile the new
edition of De la Failles lifework. Clearly it was meant to be an authorita-
tive source on the question of authenticity. The Engineer was curious to see
how the editors of this posthumous work would deal with Gachets dona-
tion. He wrote to tell them that he had repeatedly compared Gachets Van
Goghs with other Van Goghs in the Jeu de Paume, and that those belong-
ing to Gachet were not from the hand of Vincent van Gogh.28 Hammacher
responded that the Gachet Van Goghs would be treated as genuine works
in the catalogue. The Engineer was stunned:

I announced my assessment of the Gachet paintings 20 years ago your let-

ter is the rst instance in all those years of anyone telling me that they did not
agree with me, either totally or in part. So I have been waiting for a judgment,
whatever it may be, for a very long time. In my view all you have to do is look at
the paintings from the Camando collection and others hanging in the adjacent
gallery and to compare them with those in the Gachet collection. The fact that
I have never published anything about this is partly due to the fact that I would
have been accused of being impartial, not an art historian, etc., etc. That is why

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I always ask my acquaintances to see for themselves, and you are the rst to tell
me you have done just that. I am quite willing to tell [the editors of the catalogue
raisonn] what I know. About ve years ago we purchased a portion of the estate
of Paul Gachet, which I believe conrms my suspicions. I made no attempt to
disguise that purchase, but with one exception no one has ever come to see it.29

For the Engineer to say that Hammacher was the first person in all those
years to disagree with him is astonishing. It indicates that either Ham-
macher had not given his opinion before, or had formulated it in such a way
that the Engineer heard it as an endorsement of his own. It is also surprising
in another way, because Tralbaut had criticized the Engineer on this point
in writing just a few years earlier.
As these facts suggest, the Engineer only listened to those who agreed
with him. Evidence of this trait can also be seen in his remarks on a lecture
he gave on The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy. In January 1970 he
invited the editors of the catalogue raisson to a meeting at the Stedelijk to
discuss his arguments against the paintings authenticity. There he showed
them Latours photographs. Afterwards the Engineer had the impression
that he had won the editors over to his point of view, and he wrote this
to Hammacher.30 Hammacher responded immediately. He said the editors
certainly did not endorse the claim that the painting was a forgery.31 Appar-
ently here, too, those who attended the gathering had been overly cautious
in their response to the Engineers negative opinion, or perhaps the Engi-
neer had not been open to any opinion that differed from his own.

In my account of the conflict, which was related chronologically for the
most part and in which the Engineer played the central role, I did not
answer the question about the authenticity of the Van Goghs owned by Ga-
chet Junior and Senior. But authenticity is not what the story is all about.
The main issue is how the Engineer defended his negative assessment of
The Garden of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy and why he never published his
views. What makes the conflict about the painting so intriguing is that oth-
er experts namely Tralbaut and Hammacher were faced with an almost
identical dilemma, even though their attitude was necessarily formulated in


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response to that of the Engineer since their assessment of the Gachet Van
Goghs was diametrically opposed to his: Tralbaut and Hammacher believed
the paintings were genuine.
They found it difficult, however, to convey this message to him. In all
likelihood they had experienced something once that now, after all those
years, was hard to put into words: the emotions that the matter of the Ga-
chet Van Goghs had stirred up for the Engineer. His good friend Gachet
was nothing but a con man in his eyes. But there was more to it than that.
Their relationships had been shaped by the norms of the art world. A good
point of access for learning about those norms is De la Failles posthumous
catalogue raisonn, which Hammacher, the chairman of the editorial com-
mittee, offered to M. Klomp, Minister of Culture, Recreation, and Social
Work, in October 1970. It was a hefty tome weighing in at five kilos and
with more than two thousand illustrations.
In this edition of the catalogue, all the Van Goghs from the former
Gachet collection were presented as genuine works. When it came to the
question of authenticity, the editors applied the following principle: all the
works were regarded as genuine, but in those cases in which the authenticity
had been contested or doubted by an expert, that view was noted if it had
appeared in print. The text in the catalogue accompanying The Garden of
the Asylum in Saint-Rmy read as follows: This painting was donated to the
Vincent van Gogh Foundation by Paul Gachet. Dr. V. W. van Gogh believes it
was not painted by Vincent himself.32 A remarkable addition, since the Engi-
neer had never expressed this view in any publication. Why did the editors
make this exception to their own rule? Because the Engineer was not just
anybody, of course.
But there may have been another reason. Technically it was not the En-
gineer who owned the painting but the Vincent van Gogh Foundation,
although the painting was in his care. In the art world, it is regarded as in-
appropriate for the curator of museum A to make a public and unsolicited
statement to the effect that a work of art in the collection of museum B is
not genuine. The unwritten rule, to which all interested parties are tacitly
required to conform, is that the curator of museum A is responsible for his
own collection, as the curator of museum B is responsible for his. A curator
therefore expects curators of other museums not to make damaging state-
ments about the works of art in his care. The editors respected this rule

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insofar as the Engineer was concerned, even though his attitude departed
from the commonly held view: what must be reported was not the opinion
that the work was genuine but his conviction that it was a forgery. The
editors did not report the Engineers unfavorable assessments of the other
Gachet Van Goghs, and for the same reason. They were not in his care but
in the care of other owners and curators.
This rule, which is based on professional museum autonomy, requires
that an expert observe specific rules of etiquette. He is not supposed to
make a negative unilateral assessment of the maker of a work of art, and if
he is asked directly to do so, he should take the owners possible sensitivi-
ties into account. It is somewhat comparable to visiting a mother and her
newborn infant. Good manners require that the visitor congratulate her
without reservation. Visitors who think the baby is hideously ugly are not
supposed say this to the mother, nor should they announce that the babys
father is actually another man. Visitors who insist on having the last word
risk being shown the door.

Exchange relationships
The Engineers decision not to publish his assessment of the Gachet Van
Goghs can best be seen as compliance with the norm for appropriate behav-
ior regarding genuine and forged art that governs exchange relationships in
the art world. In his response to Tralbaut, he defended his silence by saying
that he did not want to cause any sensation at his [Gachets] expense while
Gachet was still alive. Writing to Hammacher, he said he had not published
his assessment because he might be accused of being impartial, not an
art historian, etc., etc. The last two words are telling. I know of no other
document in which he uses them. What could they refer to?
First, they could refer to the facts mentioned at the beginning of the
chapter. In 1948 the Engineer expressed the desire to work with Gachet
in order to assemble a collection of Van Goghs for the Vincent van Gogh
Foundation. The motive was partly material: to avoid inheritance taxes and
other forms of taxation. But it was also idealistic: to preserve and increase
Vincents fame. He was not able to interest Gachet in the plan, however.
If the Engineer had openly dismissed the Gachet Van Goghs after 1954,
Gachets lack of interest could be interpreted as a form of revenge. Perhaps

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he felt his possibilities were limited because Gachet, by making his dona-
tions in France, had garnered a great deal of honor. Those who had openly
criticized the authenticity of his Van Goghs did not occupy an authoritative
position in the French art world, so their judgments were ignored.
Then there was the matter of national honor. The struggle over Study by
Candlelight in 1949 taught the Engineer that national authorities could take
a serious interest in criticism of the authenticity of a Van Gogh. It could be
seen as a potential source of tension in the relations between national repre-
sentatives, who use art as a diplomatic tool. All the fuss about that painting
thrust him into the public eye, which had an effect on him. If he had openly
sided with the chorus of people who began denying the authenticity of the
Gachet Van Goghs after 1954, all the attention undoubtedly would have
been focused on him, the owner of the largest number of Van Goghs in the
world. The Engineer tried to win other authoritative Van Gogh experts to
his point of view. Having Tralbaut and Hammacher on his side would have
strengthened his debating position. But even then there would have been
reason for caution, since Gachet had given his Van Goghs to the French
state. That had been an extraordinary gesture because in 1945 the French
museums owned only seven works by Van Gogh.33 More than 50 years had
passed since Vincents death, and in the country in which he had painted
such a large part of his oeuvre what many regard as the most impressive
part only a handful of his works were under public ownership. So Gachets
donations, a total of sixteen paintings by Van Gogh in 1959, were a welcome
addition. During the fifties, a situation arose that made it difficult for the
Engineer to openly criticize the authenticity of these paintings. In such a
case, the norm of professional museum autonomy was more applicable than
ever: the only condition under which the Engineer and his supporters could
openly criticize would be if the French museums invited them to do so. If
the Engineer had been openly critical without such an invitation, he would
have jeopardized exchange relationships in the art world.
These relationships took a significant turn after 1962, when an accord
was reached between the Dutch state and the Engineer over the sale of his
Van Goghs to the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, for which the state put
up 15 million guilders.34 The state also committed itself to the building and
development of the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, and the city of Am-
sterdam set aside a building lot.35 This put even more force behind the rule

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that a museum should not openly criticize the authenticity of art objects
in another museum without being asked to do so. When the Van Goghs
were within its walls, the Stedelijk Museum had an interesting object of
exchange until 1972, the year the loan was terminated after approximately
50 years. Anyone interested in mounting a beautiful Van Gogh exhibition
had to deal with the collections of the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller and
that of the Engineer (later of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation). The ap-
plicants were then obliged to accommodate these institutions by making
counter-loans. With the works of Vincent van Gogh among their holdings,
the Krller-Mller and the Stedelijk could maintain and improve their posi-
tion in the art world. In 1945 the Engineer planned to involve the collection
in more inter-museum travel. He was an active gure in the art world by then
and was directly acquainted with the rules that applied to exchange relation-
ships. The dilemma he faced, which he must have been aware of, was this:
either to make his views of the Gachet Van Goghs public on his own, thereby
jeopardizing the relationship between himself (and the Stedelijk, and later
the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh) and other museums, or to remain silent
and thereby maintain the balance between the various museums.
After the appearance of the Van Gogh catalogue raisonn in 1970, in
which the editors published his denial of the authenticity of The Garden
of the Asylum in Saint-Rmy, the Engineer was strengthened in his role as
guardian of a portion of Vincents legacy. In 1974 he sent the painting to an
exhibition on genuine and fake art in Minneapolis as an example of a Van
Gogh forgery. Upon its return the canvas ended up once again in the vault
of the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, where it would remain until his
death in 1978. Shortly thereafter, Johannes van der Wolk, who became the
director of the Van Gogh Museum in 1978, returned it to the galleries. In
2000 he told me, I wanted to know how it would behave amidst the paint-
ings of Van Gogh. I hadnt done any extensive research on the provenance,
mind you. No thorough technical analysis had been done either. But my
intuition told me that it belonged in the gallery.36 And that, he said, tells
us something about the position of the Engineer. The Engineers opinions
would continue to plague the Gachet collection.37 In the mid-nineties the
battle over authenticity would flare up again.

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11 The unnished Vincent

After World War II, De la Faille learned that his catalogues of 1928 (LOEuvre
de Vincent van Gogh) and 1939 (Vincent van Gogh) were out of print. He
began work on a revised edition, and his hope of getting it on the market
looked promising. He managed to find a publisher, Librex, and in 1952
he had galley proofs printed of the two planned volumes, Paintings and
Drawings. Before going any further, the publisher wrote to the director of
the Stedelijk Museum to discuss the project. In his letter he told Sandberg
that he valued his opinion highly and was interested in his ideas on the
international distribution of the catalogue raisonn. Sandbergs reply was
prompt and icy: he had no time for a discussion, and any questions should
be submitted in writing.1 Sandbergs confrontation with De la Faille over
Study by Candlelight was still fresh in his memory. Collaborating on the
distribution of a catalogue that contained the contested work would be
far too distasteful for him. The publisher thereupon withdrew from the
project and another publisher, Martinus Nijhoff, took up the torch. In 1958
this company sent out a prospectus to booksellers announcing the publica-
tion of De la Failles complete and definitive catalogue of 1,762 works by
Vincent van Gogh. The prospectus contained a sample with a foretaste of
the contents: eight works chosen at random, with the painting Study by
Candlelight (F 476a) prominently featured.2 Did those who played a role in
the drama of William Goetz wonder about the clandestine preferences that
may have slipped into this random choice?
The revised edition of the catalogue raisonn would have enhanced De la
Failles reputation as a Van Gogh authority, but he died in 1959, leaving be-
hind an unfinished manuscript. In him, the art world lost another leading
Van Gogh expert (Bremmer had died earlier, in 1956). A well-documented
catalogue raisonn was seen as an important instrument for determining

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the authenticity of works by Van Gogh, but De la Failles last catalogue was
already many years out of date and only dealt with the paintings.
De la Failles unfinished manuscript became the subject of a tug-of-war
between a number of interested parties: experts, collectors, dealers, mu-
seums, and representatives of the minister. Whoever completed and pub-
lished it would rise to a position of influence in the Van Gogh world but
would inevitably be saddled with the problem of how to deal with conflicts
over the authenticity of Van Goghs works.

De la Failles work on the catalogue raisonn influenced the Netherlands
Institute for Art History (the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documen-
tatie, or the RKD) in its post-war plans to focus attention on collecting
books, reproductions, and documents about the life and work of Vincent
Van Gogh. De la Faille himself was the unwitting instigator of this proj-
ect. During the war the RKD had bought his collection of photos of Van
Goghs works as a way of supporting him financially, although De la Faille
was able to retain the copyright. From that moment on, the photo collec-
tion was put in the care of art historian Annet Tellegen (1912).3 After the
war, however, De la Faille gained control over his pictorial material once
again. The RKD, which until the fifties was mainly known as the image
archive for older Dutch art, set up the Department of Modern Dutch and
Belgian Art in 1947, with Tellegen as director. Her aim was to organize the
department along lines that were quite different from what was custom-
ary at the RKD. This would mean forming a collection that was based not
only on pictorial material but also on contemporary sources having to do
with nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists: newspaper and magazine
reports, sales and exhibition catalogues, and personal documents. She had
taken painting lessons from the artist Kees Verweij during the war, thereby
acquiring an understanding of the craft itself.
Tellegens idea of concentrating on documentation related to Vincent van
Gogh was not initially aimed at compiling a new, comprehensive catalogue
raisonn of Van Goghs work. That was De la Failles project. His catalogue
had given him a leading place in the Van Gogh world which he still enjoyed,
and it was expected that he would publish the third edition in the foreseeable

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future. The RKDs interest in Vincent van Gogh took on new urgency when
Sandberg and Tralbaut came up with the proposal to establish a Van Gogh
Study Center in 1953. They wanted it to be aliated with the University of
Amsterdam, but the director of the RKD A.B. de Vries thought its proper
place was with his Institute, and eventually he got his way.4 The Engineer
recommended that De Vries hire Tralbaut. Tralbaut had earned his doctorate
in 1948 with a dissertation on Vincent van Goghs Antwerp period and had
built up an extensive library of books and other documents. The assump-
tion was that in exchange for being given a job with the Dutch government
he would donate this personal material to the RKD. De Vries and Tellegen
were given the opportunity to look at Tralbauts documents at his home in
Antwerp. Tellegen was not impressed. In 2005 she told me, Tralbaut had
some nice folders, each with a Faille number, but there was nothing in them.
He also had a collection of neckties that reminded him of Van Gogh. I told
De Vries that it didnt make a serious impression and I didnt think it was
worth the trouble. De Vries did not discuss this with me any further. To my
surprise De Vries ended up hiring Tralbaut for the job at the RKD. Why? At
that time things were such that you didnt ask any questions.5
In mid-1955 Tralbaut began working at the RKD and in 1956 he was given
an assistant, Joop Joosten (1926), who had recently graduated with a degree
in art history and later would make his name as one of the compilers of the
Piet Mondriaan catalogue raisonn. This is when the idea of putting to-
gether a new Van Gogh catalogue must have taken shape, since Joosten told
me in 2001 that his job was to assist Tralbaut on such a project.6 Tralbaut
was rarely seen at the RKD, however, and the catalogue failed to material-
ize. There were frequent collisions between him and the new director, Dr.
Horst Gerson (1907-1978), a specialist in the art of the Dutch Golden Age.
Gerson wanted a straight answer from Tralbaut concerning the donation
of his library and documentation, but Tralbaut refused to commit himself
in black and white. In May 1958 he was given an honorable dismissal with-
out having donated anything to the RKD. In 1969 he would sell his Van
Gogh library and documentation to the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh
for 400,000 guilders, a sum that was raised by the Dutch state, the Univer-
sity of Amsterdam, and the Vincent van Gogh Foundation.
Tralbaut was a jack-of-all-trades. He had sung opera; written art criti-
cism, plays and books; and had worked as a sports reporter. He was the very


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model of the gentleman scholar. He lived quite comfortably thanks to his
second marriage to the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur, so he could de-
vote all his time to his passion: the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. He
acquired a reputation as an indefatigable researcher. Those who knew him
found him warmhearted, hospitable, and overflowing with enthusiasm for
Van Gogh. Tralbaut had a way with people. There were those who thought
his animated personality was quite endearing. Speaking about him in 2001,
Hammacher said, He had a house built [in France] entirely of olive tree
wood because Van Gogh had painted olive trees so often.7 In 1953 the
Algemeen Handelsblad politely mentioned a shadow side of his passion: A
fanatical and persevering man, this inhabitant of Antwerp is not afraid of
carrying out a hypothesis to the point of absurdity.8
Tralbaut became acquainted with the Engineer after the war, and they
would remain friends for life. The Engineer appreciated Tralbauts eagerness
to make Van Gogh better known, but he was critical of Tralbauts tendency
to go off on a tangent in his books and articles about Vincent. Tralbaut
also had a habit of letting his imagination get the better of him. In 1946,
in the early years of their friendship, he wrote to the Engineer that riding

. M.E. Tralbaut pointing out the details of Self-Portrait (F verso) (. x .

cm) during the Van Gogh exhibition of at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.
To his left are Douglas Cooper and Jean Leymarie.

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in the Tour de France had completely worn him out. As a reporter he had
followed the event by car, but he gave the impression that he had ridden the
whole thing on a bicycle. Mere research was not enough for him. He also
had literary ambitions, and romanticized about the relationship between
Vincent, Theo, and Johanna in a play called In de schaduw van de raven (In
the Shadow of the Ravens). The play has Vincent and Johanna fall in love at
first sight, but shes already married to Theo and had given birth to Vincent
Willem a few months before. Neither the correspondence between Vincent
and Theo nor any other historical document makes the slightest suggestion
of such a love affair. In the drama devised by Tralbaut, Vincents suicide is
the result of his realization that he cannot be Johannas lover. This, too, has
no historical basis. But in the plays dnouement Tralbaut has the dying
Vincent say to Theo, Dont forget to embrace Jo for me ... shell under-
stand everything ... Im sure of it ... and ... and ... little Vincent ... When
hes grown ... hell understand, too ...9
Tralbauts little Vincent did not understand, however, not even 64
years later. In fact he hated this kind of fantasizing and scorned the idea
that his uncles suicide was the result of his unrequited love for his mother.10
Initially Tralbaut decided not to have his production performed, but after
five years he changed his mind and staged it in Antwerp. He defended his
brainchild with the remark that except for the suicide everything is purely
imaginary. He never entirely abandoned his idea of the relationship be-
tween Vincent, Theo, and Jo, however, and laid it all at the doorstep of old
man Freud supposedly Vincent was jealous because Theo had started a
family, something Vincent himself had longed for but had never succeeded
in doing. In the end, though, Tralbaut came to regard the play as the prod-
uct of my mischievous fantasy.11
Tralbaut knew how to win people over with his warmheartedness, en-
thusiasm, and zeal. They saw him as a solo flyer, someone whom no one
could work with. He was regarded as unpredictable, a trait that he revealed
to his friend, the Engineer, on more than one occasion. In 1953 Tralbaut
investigated the authenticity of a painting for the Expertise Institute and
concluded that it was not a Van Gogh.12 Shortly thereafter the Engineer
learned, much to his surprise, that the same work had been shown at the
Van Gogh exhibition in Antwerp in May and June 1955, but this time as a
genuine Van Gogh and with Tralbauts added note, Authenticated by the


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Expertise Institute. The board of the Institute was divided over Tralbauts
action. Supposedly the Engineers first response was to shrug it off. He
said it was a typically Belgian thing to do. But the secretary, Margrit de
Sablonire, called it dishonest and maintained that what Tralbaut had done
was contrary to the principles of the Expertise Institute. She brought the
matter to a head and threatened to step down in 1955 if the board chose to
ignore the incident. The Engineer then wrote to Tralbaut and told him that
he should at least have informed him of his reversed opinion.13 The Institute
decided not to ask him for any more assessments.
After being dismissed from the RKD, Tralbaut got in touch with De la
Faille. He asked him for data for a Van Gogh catalogue raisonn, which
Tralbaut said he had been working on for quite some time. De la Faille
found this initiative quite disturbing, since up until then the Van Gogh
catalogue had been his baby.14

When De la Faille died in 1959, almost all his photos of Van Goghs paint-
ings and drawings were at the RKD. The copyright on the photos and text
of the catalogues had gone to the widow, but there was no sign of a completed

. A.M. Hammacher and J.G. van Gelder in .

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manuscript that was ready to go to press, despite the proud announcements
from Librex and Nijhoff of previous years that publication was imminent.
In 1960 the Kluwer company asked the RKD for permission to publish the
catalogue. After some prodding by Tellegen, Gerson told his superiors at
the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences that his bureau had begun
preparing a Van Gogh catalogue raisonn. Tellegen hoped that this un-
dertaking would add some prestige to the Department of Modern Dutch
and Belgian Art and increase awareness of the RKD both nationally and
internationally. But Tralbaut wanted to publish a catalogue raisonn, too,
and he went to visit Da la Failles widow. He thought she should turn her
husbands Van Gogh documentation over to him: it was of no use to her,
after all, and Tralbaut could use it to compile his own Van Gogh catalogue.
She made him no promises but got in touch with Hammacher, director of
the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller.
In 2001 Hammacher told me he had spoken with De la Faille regularly
about various works of art that hopeful owners wanted to attribute to Vin-
cent van Gogh. In 1950 a version of The Potato Eaters had come to light that
was being attributed to Van Gogh by its owners, but De la Faille refused to
make a snap decision. In 1951 he arranged to meet with Hammacher and
the Utrecht art historian Jan G. van Gelder (1903-1980) in the Rijksmuseum
Krller-Mller to talk about it. Hammacher told me in 2001 that De la
Faille was sincerely interested in their arguments and did not hesitate to
reveal his own uncertainty about the works authenticity.15 He had always
been on good terms with De la Faille despite their differences of opinion,
so it made perfect sense that his widow should ask Hammacher for advice.
When Hammacher heard that Tralbaut was trying to take control of De la
Failles legacy, he was horrified. If that were to happen, he said, the archive
would fall into the hands of someone whose excitement and more than
hundred percent adoration of Van Gogh would cause him to treat it in an
irresponsible fashion. I warned the widow, but she said she had come to the
same conclusion herself.16 Hammacher asked J. Hulsker director of the
Art Division of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences if the gov-
ernment would be prepared to invest in the completion of the De la Faille
manuscript. He thought the final edition of the catalogue should be the
responsibility of what in 2001 he called a group of people who had been
more calmly selected.17


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. Discussion of The Potato Eaters at the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller in September
. From left to right, A.M. Hammacher, J.B. de la Faille and J.G. van Gelder.

In fact, a portion of De la Failles archive was already at the RKD in

1960, but Hammachers memory is a good reflection of the mood at the
time. The important thing was to prevent Tralbaut from compiling a new
Van Gogh catalogue raisonn, thereby undermining Tralbauts authority as
a Van Gogh expert.

Editorial sta
At the start of the sixties, Abraham Hammacher was undoubtedly one of
the most important art connoisseurs in the Netherlands. Since the twenties
he had written a number of books and hundreds of articles for newspapers,
magazines, and catalogues. He was praised for his keen intellect, erudition,
and facile pen. Above all, he was known as one of the countrys experts on
the work of Vincent van Gogh, about whom he had been writing articles in
the Utrechts Dagblad, Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, and De Gids since the

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early twenties. After World War II, he let hardly a year go by without pub-
lishing something about the admired artist. As director of the Rijksmuseum
Krller-Mller, he was able to view a magnificent collection of paintings
and drawings by Van Gogh every day. Hammachers fascination had its
roots in the collected letters Vincent wrote to his brother Theo, which he
had read at the age of sixteen. For him, Vincent was one of those artists
who lived at odds with the rest of the world. Hammacher put it this way:
art satisfies the general human craving for an image that both wounds and
heals, that can fulfill human consciousness: the magical image [...] where
the divine and the mortal meet.18 In 1960 Hammacher could look back at
the success of his books and catalogues on the work of Van Gogh, a success
that was evident from the reprints and translations of his books and the
requests for lectures.
Hammachers knowledge of the Dutch art world was unsurpassed. He
had begun as a journalist and critic, and in the late thirties he was appoint-
ed head of the Aesthetics Department of the Dutch post office. After the
war he took charge of the Art Division of the Ministry of Education, Arts,
and Sciences, and in 1947 he became director of the Rijksmuseum Krller-
Mller. He was chairman of the Commission of Exhibitions Abroad and of
numerous other bodies that brought him in contact with the administrative
and cultural elite. In 1952 he became extraordinary professor of art history
at the Delft Institute of Technology. A few years later the University of
Utrecht awarded him an honorary doctorate for his achievements. In the
laudation he was praised by the doctoral supervisor, Van Gelder, for his
profound insight into the development of contemporary art.19
In 1961 Hammacher formed the Editorial committee for the reissue of
the catalogue of works by Vincent van Gogh (henceforth the editorial
committee) consisting of Van Gelder, De Gruyter, Hulsker, and Gerson
all of them heavyweights in the Dutch art world. Van Gelder had been
friends with Hammacher since the twenties, and the two men had pub-
lished in Elseviers Gellustreerd Maandschrift, an important magazine for the
literary and artistically minded elite before the war. In 1941 he had written a
study of The Potato Eaters.20 Van Gelders significance was greater than that
of a university scholar, however. As his former colleague Van Uitert char-
acterized him in 2001, he was a great networker, an organizer,21 someone
who could pull strings for his students and colleagues because of his con-

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nections with the government, museums, and universities. He was a mem-
ber of several consultative bodies that were responsible for shaping policy
on the arts, including the board of the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller.
De Gruyter, along with Willem Scherjon, compiled the catalogue of Van
Goghs paintings from Arles, Saint-Rmy, and Auvers-sur-Oise in 1937. Af-
ter the war he worked for a few years as director of the Groninger Museum
voor Stad en Lande, and in the sixties he became head of the modern art
section of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. In 1967 he would give
up his membership on the editorial committee for health reasons and be
replaced by Ellen Joosten ( 2005), curator at the Rijksmuseum Krller-
Horst Gerson served on the editorial committee as director of the RKD.
His real love was not Van Gogh and modern art, however, but Rembrandt
van Rijn; he was working on a catalogue raisonn of Rembrandts work at
the time. In 1964 he left the RKD to take up a professorship at the Univer-
sity of Groningen. His successor on the editorial committee was S. Gud-
laugsson (1913-1971), also a specialist in the art of the Golden Age and with
little affinity for that of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Jan Hulsker (1907-2003) was a Dutch specialist who earned his doctorate
in 1946 with a dissertation on the writer Aart van der Leeuw and who also
did research on the correspondence of Vincent van Gogh.22 He was the di-
rector of the Art Division of the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences.
When the editorial committee first met in August 1961, no pledge had yet
been made by the minister. In fact, Hammachers initiative for the publi-
cation of the catalogue raisonn had no legal or financial basis at all. But
Hulsker, who wanted to serve on the committee as government representa-
tive, expected that the minister would give the project his financial support.
After all, De la Failles catalogue was an indispensable standard work, a
publication of great importance to the Netherlands.23
Conspicuous by his absence on the editorial committee was the Engi-
neer, which did not mean that his expertise was being questioned. The
editors did not invite him to join because they knew he was not in favor of
reissuing the catalogue and because, as the minutes of the editorial commit-
tee note, it is well known that he holds strong views about the authenticity
or spuriousness of many paintings that differ from those of other experts.24
This argument has the ring of a pretext. The same could be said of De

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Gruyter, for example, and he was a committee member. In his 1937 Van
Gogh catalogue, the Engineer upheld the authenticity of some paintings
that others had denied or doubted, and conversely he declared paintings
as forgeries that Van Gogh experts like De la Faille and the director of the
Nationalgalerie Ludwig Justi regarded as genuine. The editors had no
objection to working with him. The real difficulty probably had to do with
something else about the Engineer that had not been committed to paper:
his reputation for going his own way when it came to his uncles spiritual
legacy. The fact that he had differing views on what was genuine and what
was fake would become evident after the catalogue was published in 1970,
when he marked the paintings and drawings in his copy with marginal
notes like Fake! and This is not Vincent. He never published his dis-
senting opinions.
The editorial committee hoped to complete its work on the reissue with-
in one to two years and to avoid questions over authenticity. Consensus was
the motto. The Engineer, they thought, would never accept any attempt to
achieve consensus. Hammacher was well aware of his firm conviction re-
garding Paul Gachets Van Goghs. There were others, too, who saw him as
a man with a mind of his own. Edy de Wilde, successor to Sandberg at the
Stedelijk Museum, made the following comment in 2001: [The Engineer]
did listen to me, but if he didnt go along with something, it didnt happen.
He often confronted the directors of the Stedelijk with faits accomplis. If he
wanted to take the collection somewhere for an exhibition, he got it, even
if it caused problems for the Stedelijk. Compromises were out of the ques-
tion. He had a lot of charm but he rarely took other people into account.25
Many years later, Van Gelder would characterize him as short-tempered,
irritable, brilliant, and friendly.26
One of the principles of the academic enterprise is: were going to agree
to disagree, and it is quite conceivable that we will continue to disagree. The
implicit principle of the editorial committee, however, was: were going to
agree to agree an understandable attitude. People who work on a project
together must be prepared to make compromises. Fundamental dierences
of opinion can endanger the progress and completion of a research project,
in this case a catalogue raisonn. It is also important to realize that the edi-
torial committee assigned itself a modest role at rst. The documents keep
referring to a reissue. But the idea of a modest role would not last long.

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In September 1961 the state secretary gave the editorial committee the green
light. Additional personnel were assigned to the RKD for one year to assist
the editors. On Hammachers advice, the state secretary sent a letter to Tral-
baut to inform him of the support for the reissue being provided by the Dutch
government and of the names of the persons on the editorial committee. It
had to be made clear to Tralbaut that by working independently he would
not be able to achieve what Hammacher and his colleagues were bound to
accomplish on a project commissioned and nanced by the state. The mes-
sage got through; Tralbaut stopped working on his Van Gogh catalogue. The
ministrys direct nancial support for issuing a catalogue of a Dutch master
was a unique event. Never before or since, as we now know had a ministry
directly commissioned the publication of a catalogue raisonn.
One crucial clause in the ministrys assignment charged the editorial
committee with this task: wherever possible, the publication of the new
edition will reflect the current state of contemporary scholarship.27 There
was no explanation, nor was there a plan of action for the reissue that would
serve as guidelines for the editorial committee. The ministry confined itself
to the notion of scholarship which, as it turned out, the editorial com-
mittee and the RKD each interpreted in its own way. As noted earlier, the
editorial committee envisioned a modest role for itself, and in this respect it
spoke of keeping watch over the publication of De la Failles posthumous
work. While making every effort to avoid adding divergent opinions from
any single member of the editorial committee to the catalogue, it sought
to incorporate important data that has been published since the last edi-
tion.28 De la Failles widow, who attended the first meeting of the editorial
committee, agreed with this aim provided that these additions are not
polemical or personal in character, as she put it. Her words echo the bitter
struggle over authenticity that her late husband had fought beginning with
the Wacker affair.29
Two years later, the editorial committee clarified its position on the
reissue. It did not intend to look for or correct any deficiencies [in De la
Failles work] or to encourage our own investigation of any unsolved is-
sues. 30 Only information that had been published by art scholars during
the intervening years would be used. The editorial committee realized that
it could not avoid problems of authenticity. How should it deal with De

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la Failles judgments of works by Van Gogh that were disputed by other
experts? The editors agreed that they would accept this subjective ele-
ment as unavoidable, and in doubtful cases they would cite the necessary
literature in order to give the reader the opportunity to form his own judg-
ment. 31
At the RKD, Tellegen had a different interpretation of the state secre-
tarys instruction to bring the catalogue academically up-to-date. A reissue
that remained faithful to De la Failles work and views was an impossibility,
in her opinion. She wanted a publication that would satisfy the academic
standards she had drawn up for the Department of Modern Dutch and Bel-
gian Art. She thought it was time to conduct new and thorough research,
which would involve studying paintings, drawings, and watercolors, check-
ing the provenance of the various works with former and present owners,
documenting the exhibition history once again, etc.
Her colleague Joop Joosten told me in 2001, We wanted to conduct
a study of provenance, and that would involve answering questions such
as: when was a painting or drawing first mentioned or described? Who
described it? What were the circumstances? When was it first exhibited,
photographed, or reproduced? We believed that answering these questions
would require historical research. We would have to collect as much infor-
mation as we could from archives, magazines, books, and in Van Goghs
letters. It seems perfectly obvious now, but back then it definitely was not.
Vincents incomplete and partly expurgated letters had been used in a slap-
dash fashion to date the paintings. De la Faille had not arranged Vincents
works chronologically, and that was one of the things that had to be sorted
out. And there were incorrect attributions and forgeries as well.32 In 1961
no one could have known that differences in ambition and the interpreta-
tion of the notion of scholarship would lead to clashes between the RKD
and the editorial committee.

The Park at Arles

In 1963 the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller received a painting on approval
via a French art dealer with a request for an assessment. According to the
dealer it was Vincents The Park at Arles (F 472). This work had not been
exhibited for a long time, and one of its first owners had been the Berlin


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collector Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Hammacher, who by now had
retired, wrote the assessment. He asked the RKD to give him a photo of the
painting from De la Failles collection, which it did.
Tellegen had never seen the actual painting and went to Otterlo in early
August to study it. There she discovered something strange. The brush-
strokes in the painting at the Krller-Mller were different from those
of The Park at Arles in De la Failles 1928 and 1939 catalogues. Not only
that, but the painting in the Krller-Mller was bigger. Her conclusion:
the painting was either a copy or a fake. The curator at the Krller-Mller
shared her view. Upon returning to the RKD she compared the photos of
the original piece with those of the fake, all of them from De la Failles col-
lection. Apparently De la Faille had intended to use the yet unpublished
photo of the fake in the new edition of the catalogue. The photo came from
a French art dealer, who had sent it to him in 1958. De la Faille had prob-
ably failed to notice the differences between the photos. This confirmed
Tellegens conviction that thorough research was necessary, and she wrote
to Hammacher insisting that we should proceed with the utmost caution,
even with the material from De la Faille, and that not a single detail should
be accepted without being carefully checked.33 The letter did not go down
well. After one month she was summoned by her superior, RKD director
Gerson, who was upset by the tone and content of her letter. It was not up
to her to decide whether a painting was a forgery or not, he said. She was
told to apologize to Hammacher, which she did.
The painting was then taken to the RKD in The Hague for inspection.
Tellegen had photos taken of the fake painting with a raking light that
closely resembled those taken of the genuine canvas, a method that most
clearly captured the differences between them. The editors agreed that the
photos revealed certain discrepancies. Were they looking at two different
paintings? Hammacher thought the photos in fact were of one and the same
painting: the one owned by Mendelssohn. The differences shown in the
photos prove nothing about the possibility of two versions, he said. The
painting could have been restored or retouched. It was a plausible explana-
tion, all the more so since the painting did not give the impression of hav-
ing been carefully painted, as copies often are. Van Gelder agreed with him.
But De Gruyter thought they were looking at two different paintings, and
like Tellegen he doubted the works authenticity.

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The editors were divided and could not reach a decision. They thought
the provenance of the Mendelssohn version ought to be looked into closely
and that Professor Froentjes of the Forensic Laboratory of the Ministry of
Justice should be asked to study the suspect work.34 Froentjes also took
photos of the painting that approximated the older photo as much as pos-
sible, and in early December he wrote to the editorial committee, A com-
parison between the old photo and these prints shows that the original
painting has been deftly imitated, although there are still many minor
differences. 35 A few weeks later, an investigation into the archives of an
American art dealer revealed that The Park at Arles had been re-canvased
in 1950, which was not the case with the suspect painting. That dealer had
also compared photos of The Park at Arles with the suspect painting, which
he had had for some time on approval. His conclusion: a repeat perfor-
mance, but not by Van Gogh.36
These results made Tellegen more convinced than ever that the new edi-
tion should be based on thorough research. In fact this was simply an exten-
sion of her official duties, which were to verify and provide supplementary
information on the works of art and to answer questions from within the
Netherlands and abroad concerning the location, provenance, dating, or
possible authenticity of work by or attributed to Vincent van Gogh.37 As
a result, compiling the catalogue took longer than the editorial commit-
tee had envisioned. The editors became irritated with what they called her
perfectionism. She was urged to discontinue her time-consuming per-
sonal research and to give priority to producing numbers, i.e. the works
by Van Gogh with Faille numbers.38

Tension mounted between the editorial committee and Annet Tellegen, and
by May 1964 they had lost all confidence in her. The men claimed she had
made far too little progress over the past years. Her working method was
incompatible with the promise they had made to the minister to finish
the catalogue in 1964. She, on the other hand, thought it would be pro-
fessionally irresponsible to publish the revised De la Faille with merely a
few additions. At first she found a sympathetic ear in the person of her
colleague Joop Joosten. The two of them sent a memo to their superior,


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Gerson, pointing out all the problems with De la Failles legacy. He was won
over, took sides, and wrote to the committee, In making my way through
the first 40 numbers I have come across so many inconsistencies, incorrect
dates based on incorrect citations from the letters, doubts as to provenance,
etc., that I, too, have come to the conclusion that it makes no sense to
publish this basic information without a thorough revision. Gerson saw an
unbridgeable gap between the views of the editors and those of his institute,
which he felt could no longer bear the responsibility for the new edition.
He sent a letter to the editorial committee announcing that he was with-
drawing as a member and that he had charged Tellegen with conducting
additional research in accordance with her plans. He hoped that a new,
solid Van Gogh catalogue would emerge from this research [...] based on
modern principles.39
Gersons position did not go down smoothly with his fellow editors.
Van Gelder hit the roof. He accused Gerson of taking three years to come
to the conclusion that his RKD was incapable of handling the De la Faille
revision. After three years, 40 of the 2,500 numbers have been laid out but
are not ready for the press. Somehow weve got to find a way out of this im-
passe as soon as possible. If you ask me, it wont do to say, Im pulling out
because I prefer a different kind of catalogue. Whos going to take that on,
I wonder? Van Gelder was not confident that the RKD would be able to
carry out such a huge project on its own and asked Gerson to reconsider.40
Gerson then made a completely unexpected about-face and demanded that
Tellegen conform to the views of the committee. There wasnt a word about
the research according to her own plans that he had urged her to under-
take earlier on. She refused, and both of them turned for arbitration to the
Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences, to which the RKD was account-
able.41 For the ministry, the official response was quite straightforward:
[...] either Mrs. Tellegen does the work assigned to her by the director, or
Mrs. Tellegen must be dismissed.42 Van Gelder exerted pressure on Gerson
to stick to his guns. His collaborators, he wrote, have no idea what sort of
official relationship they should be working under, nor do they understand
the notion of copyright or the moral obligations it entails.43
The editorial committee arranged to meet with Joop Joosten who had
temporarily replaced Tellegen as head of the Department of Modern Dutch
and Belgian Art in an attempt to have Tellegens work on the catalogue

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raisonn turned over to someone else. Joosten sided with her entirely: car-
rying out the editorial plan was professionally irresponsible. Thus began a
difficult period for Gerson. To take the bull by the horns and force two staff
members to resign would exacerbate relations within the RKD. But to let
the matter slide would result in loss of face with the Ministry and the edito-
rial committee. Finally Tellegen gave in, despite the moral support offered
to her by her colleagues from the RKD. In 2000 she told me, I was in dan-
ger of being branded a troublemaker. If that had happened, I wouldnt have
been able to get a job anywhere. She realized that without the support of
her superior she did not stand a chance of realizing her ambition: to make
the RKD a distinguished Vincent van Gogh knowledge center. In March
1965 the editorial committee drew up a document in which she declared
that with regard to the catalogue she would set aside any desire to act
autonomously.44 She signed the declaration, deciding to acquiesce in the
hope of making the best of things. I felt like Cassandra, warning people of
an inevitable catastrophe, she told me.45 She and her colleagues continued
to provide the committee with information on the paintings and drawings,
but she no longer attended the weekly meetings of the editorial committee
at the RKD. A colleague agreed to shuttle material between her department
and that of the committee and to answer questions. She had seen the last of
visits from the editorial committee.

Working out the hierarchy between the editorial committee and the RKD
personnel did not mean reverting to the idea of a reissue of De la Failles
legacy with a few additions. The drastic change that had taken place in
the editorial style since 1964 is most clearly demonstrated in the final re-
sult of 1970: The works of Vincent van Gogh: His paintings and drawings. In
1962 the editors were still insisting that De la Failles legacy should not be
checked or improved, while in 1970 it appeared that the exhibition history
of all the drawings and paintings had been thoroughly researched. The same
was true of the unsolved matters such as the dating of Van Goghs letters,
drawings, and paintings: the editorial committee had wanted to leave these
in abeyance, but in the end a sound investigation was conducted. The art
historian Martha Op de Coul had been appointed in 1963 to carry out this


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work. In 1961 the editorial committee intended to include only additions
that had appeared in scholarly art publications, but in 1966 they were given
extra funding by the ministry to conduct their own research on Vincents
drawings. And on and on. What is noteworthy for this book is how the
editorial committee dealt with questions of authenticity. In 1962 the edi-
tors agreed to respect De la Failles judgments, while by 1970 it seems they
had rejected seventeen works that De la Faille had wanted to include as Van
Goghs. In addition, the editorial committee accepted six works that De la
Faille himself had refused to consider genuine.46 In short, the editorial com-
mittee had steered a course independent of De la Faille, even when it came
to questions of authenticity.

Les environs de Paris revisited

Word got around in the art world that the RKD was preparing a new edi-
tion of the De la Faille catalogue. Questions began coming in from experts,
collectors, museums, art dealers, and auction houses, all of them wondering
whether works in which they had an interest would be included in the cata-
logue as genuine Van Goghs. One of those works was Les environs de Paris.
For the owner, the Paris art dealer Alfred Loeb, nothing had changed
since 1958, when the Expertise Institute had issued its disappointing as-
sessment. To make matters worse, the canvas he had paid so much for was
now entirely unmarketable as a Van Gogh. Loeb must have realized that
the Institutes judgment concerning the maker of Les environs de Paris
not Van Gogh, probably Angrand would work like a time bomb. During
the sixties anyone who may have wanted to purchase a Van Gogh from his
Paris period (at that time a Van Gogh cost at least ten times as much as
an Angrand) probably would not have wanted to take any chances. Such
a person would also have found his way to the Expertise Institute, and the
unpublished report from 1958 would finally have come to light.
So Loeb had to proceed with caution. He kept the canvas out of the
public eye and looked for experts who supported his belief that it was a Van
Gogh. He obtained a positive assessment from a French expert, someone
who had no name in the Van Gogh world, let alone authority.47 In 1966,
however, he came in contact with Tralbaut, whose authority on Van Gogh
was still intact. Now Loeb had found a much better ally: dozens of publica-

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tions on Van Gogh to his name, a compiler of exhibitions, connections with
art experts and last but not least a friend of the Engineer. Tralbaut threw
himself into studying the painting, and his stylistic and historical research
all pointed in one direction: Vincent van Gogh. Nevertheless, Loeb and
Tralbaut were aware that Tralbauts research alone was insufficient, and that
more would have to be done before the painting could be marketed as a
Van Gogh. Given the Expertise Institutes authoritative, negative judgment,
publishing Tralbauts research could lead to an open conflict on the works
authenticity. No one would ever risk buying such an expensive, tainted
work. Publishing it in the Van Gogh catalogue raisonn, however, would
turn the tide on the painting for good. The revised De la Faille would have
just the kind of authority needed to drown out any hesitant buyer or skepti-
cal colleague. But how to get it into the catalogue?
Tralbaut knew that the editorial committee and the Expertise Institute
were in regular contact over the paintings that had been reviewed by the In-
stitute, so the idea was to persuade Hammacher and Jaff, who had written
the original assessment. It took quite some time before Tralbaut succeeded
in arranging to speak with them, and in the meantime preparations were
underway for the printing of his publication, which numbered more than
40 pages and was being financed by Loeb. Finally Tralbaut managed to talk
Jaff into looking at the painting once more. Jaff studied the work in Basel
on 18 August 1967, in the company of a colleague of Loeb, and he revised his
judgment. Now he was convinced that Van Gogh was the painter.48 Tralbaut
discussed this with Hammacher and understood him to say that the paint-
ing would definitely be included in the revised De la Faille.
Tralbaut also came up with an indirect way of pressing home his posi-
tion on the painting. He suggested to Loeb that the publication be dedi-
cated to Sandberg, former board member of the Expertise Institute: It
would give the assessment an international nuance. 49 Loeb was enthusias-
tic about the idea. He was worried, however, that his commercial interest
in the publication might become known. But Tralbaut had a solution: in
the galley proofs he changed the location of the painting from Paris to
Switzerland. This way, he wrote to Loeb, [...] no one will make the
connection with you. 50 They concealed their close collaboration as well as
the financial interest Tralbaut had procured in the sale: five percent of the
selling price.

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In November 1967 the first installment of Tralbauts Archives Interna-
tionales de Van Gogh was published under the title Comment identifier van
Gogh? One whole page was reserved for the announcement that two lead-
ing scholars Jaff and Hammacher regarded it as a work by Van Gogh.
Comment identifier van Gogh? was sent to scores of prominent figures in the
art world, and Tralbaut was praised for his discovery. He received compli-
ments from director Van Schendel of the Rijksmuseum for his extensive
research, from an art dealer for the works handsome design, and from
the Engineer for the thoroughness with which the piece was written.51
Flattering compliments to be sure, but obviously the letter writers had
chosen their words with great care to avoid expressing an opinion about
who the painter of Les environs de Paris actually was. It is not difficult to
imagine how Tralbaut and Loeb must have felt in December 1967, how-
ever, for Jaff and Hammacher of the Expertise Institute had attributed
the work to Van Gogh, and Hammacher supposedly had talked about in-
cluding it in the catalogue. With Van Gelders unqualified support, Loeb
and Tralbaut were more convinced than ever that it actually was true. Van
Gelder wrote, I believe I have seen the painting once in the Stedelijk
Museum, not knowing the authorship had ever been in doubt. If there
were any doubts, they have certainly been eliminated entirely now that a
thorough analysis has been carried out.52 Loeb and Tralbaut had no ear for
dissenting noises.
At the RKD in The Hague, the revision of the De la Faille catalogue was
far from complete, so Tralbaut worked steadily in his attempts to carve out
a prominent place in Vincents oeuvre not only for this painting but also
for two others he had discovered: Rcolte de bl dans la plaine des Alpilles
(Grain Harvest on the Plains of the Alpilles) and Paysage aux environs dArles
(Landscape near Arles). He devoted a detailed installment of his Archives
Internationales de Van Gogh to Rcolte de bl, which he had discovered in
1968. In the text he used the Engineers authority to underscore its authen-
ticity.53 The owner was not mentioned by name, but two years later Tral-
baut reproduced the painting in a publication once again and concealed the
identity of the owner with the phrase Collection particulire, Los Angeles,
Etats-Unis.54 Here, too, Tralbaut had procured a commercial interest of
five percent of the selling price.

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The year 1969 marked the publication of Tralbauts monumental mono-
graph Van Gogh, le mal aim, which also came out in English. In it he
reviewed the life and work of his idol in 350 pages that included hundreds
of black-and-white and color illustrations. The color reproductions of his
three discoveries were prominently featured.55 Engineer Van Gogh was re-
sponsible for the preface. After the first sentence What a moving book!
he sings the praises of the author, for whom (he writes) he has written
prefaces for many earlier books. Personally, says the Engineer, he finds such
prefaces unnecessary, since the author has already written over a hundred
books and articles on Van Gogh: Tralbauts reputation alone is enough to
guarantee the value of this work.56 With these words, the Engineer seems
to be backing Tralbauts Van Gogh discoveries with his own authority. But
although he may create that impression, the Engineer is entirely silent when
it comes to the authenticity of Tralbauts discoveries or of any other work in
Van Gogh, le mal aim. In this respect his preface is just as non-committal
as his complimentary letter of November 1967 in response to Tralbauts
publication on Les environs de Paris.
Tralbaut now believed himself to be one of the anointed. Later he de-
fended himself against criticism of the authenticity of the painting by say-
ing, Do you think that he [i.e., the Engineer] would have done that for
a book containing a reproduction of the painting if he had not been con-
vinced of it himself?57 Having his discoveries included in the revised De
la Faille seemed like a sure thing, all the more so since in 1969 the editor-
ial committee had asked him who should be listed in the catalogue as the
paintings owner. But he was in for a disappointment.58
In mid-1969 Tralbaut learned that none of his discoveries would be in-
cluded in the catalogue raisonn. The editorial committee was divided over
their authenticity. The hazy provenance of the paintings became a particu-
larly problematic obstacle to consensus.59 None of the works were men-
tioned in Vincent van Goghs letters, they had no exhibition history, and
the line leading back to the master via the owners was vague. Tralbaut was
aghast and demanded satisfaction in the most imperious tones. The com-
mittees answer was succinct and to the point. There would be no section in
the catalogue containing works that did not appear in De la Faille and over
which the editorial committee had not reached a consensus on authentic-


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ity or attribution.60 Tralbaut accused the committee of being inconsistent
because he had been told that other recently discovered work would be
The editorial committee proposed a compromise. They would reproduce
Les environs de Paris in the catalogue but with a note to the reader saying
that the editors disagreed on the works authenticity. Then Tralbaut over-
played his hand. He demanded that all three paintings be included without
comment. If not, an international press conference in Paris would be
held to coincide with the publication of the catalogue, at which every-
one would be invited to substantiate his doubts with scholarly arguments,
and to which an official invitation would naturally be sent to the editorial
committee. [...] The conference would be chaired by three leading figures
from the art history sector. It would expose the editors lack of expertise:
I deem it necessary to determine once and for all who is and who is not
a Van Gogh expert. The expert, Tralbaut wrote, distinguishes between
genuine and false without hesitation, certainly when the work before him is
not merely an ordinary painting by Vincent van Gogh but a masterpiece.61
Tralbaut terminated his friendship with the editors and threatened to take
legal action, but the committee stood firm and rejected all three of his dis-
coveries. Tralbauts pent-up anger probably had to do with finances, one
editor sighed. A most unpalatable and dangerous gentleman. Now hes left
alone with his painting, press conference or no press conference. Its a les-
son in never putting anything down on paper, however, and in being more
distrustful of commerce than were already wont to be.62

Les environs de Paris was not to be included in the Van Gogh catalogue: it
was a heavy blow for Alfred Loeb, and he urged Tralbaut to discuss it with
the Engineer. At least he had never said anything negative about the paint-
ing. He could be talked into rendering a favorable assessment, couldnt
he? Whether Tralbaut tried this or not is unknown, but in 1971 Bogomila
Welsh-Ovcharov showed up. She was one of Van Gelders doctoral students,
and she found the Van Gogh attribution erroneous.
Since 1969 Welsh-Ovcharov had been doing research on the two years
that Vincent van Gogh lived and worked in Paris: March 1886 to February

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1888. She had come across reviews of an exhibition organized by the Socit
des Artistes Indpendants in 1886 in which a particular painting, Terrains
vagues (Fallow ground), was described. Much to her surprise, the description
written by these critics corresponded with the composition of Les environs
de Paris. What the critics said, however, was that it was not a work by Van
Gogh but by Charles Angrand. The work had never been exhibited in the
twentieth century and she very much wanted to see it, so she traveled with
Loeb from Paris to the safe in Basel where it was being kept to have a look.
She also had talks with a nephew of the artist, Pierre Angrand, who told her
he had seen Terrains vagues in the company of the artist during the twenties.
Welsh-Ovcharov was sure she was right and published her findings in 1971,
The early work of Charles Angrand and his contact with Vincent van Gogh.
Tralbaut was horrified. He had nothing good to say about Welsh-Ovcharov
and her work, and in a letter to an acquaintance he called her a show-off
and a fool.63 A discussion between Tralbaut and Welsh-Ovcharov never
took place.64
In 1976 Tralbaut died and Les environs de Paris lost its standard-bearer.
Loeb did not give up, however. He had in his possession indisputable state-
ments by several experts that the canvas was from Vincents hand, and when
the 1970 De la Faille was published the editorial committee indicated they
were open to revisions and additions. No date was set for the publication
of those changes, and as we now know, no revised catalogue would ever
appear in the twentieth century. Nor is there evidence at the time of writ-
ing of any work in progress that might result in a fully documented Van
Gogh catalogue-raisonn. This would not necessarily prevent a particular
work of art from being accepted as a Van Gogh, but it would need the
unanimous agreement of authoritative experts. In the seventies and eight-
ies, however, the work was neither discussed nor depicted by any Van Gogh
expert. Welsh-Ovcharov left it out of her 1976 dissertation on Van Goghs
Paris period. In 1977, Jan Hulsker, the former editor of the posthumous De
la Faille, published his own catalogue, The Complete Van Gogh.65 He com-
pletely ignored Les environs de Paris.
In 1981 Loeb contacted Hammacher, the chairman of the editorial com-
mittee, and induced him to consider his painting once again. For the next
year, Hammacher and Ellen Joosten studied the painting in Paris. They were
unanimous in their opinion of the works authenticity and told Loeb that it


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would be published in a supplement to De la Failles 1970 catalogue.66 They
believed Welsh-Ovcharovs Angrand attribution to be incorrect. But when
Hammachers richly illustrated Van Gogh biography came out in 1982, it
contained no mention of the painting. The experts continued to express
ambivalence about the makers identity. During the years that followed,
Jaff issued Loeb another certificate of authenticity while the RKD and a
French expert sided with Welsh-Ovcharov.67

In 1987 Welsh-Ovcharov put the finishing touches on a catalogue for the
exhibition Van Gogh Paris at the prestigious and newly opened Muse
dOrsay. The aim of the exhibition was to portray the group of painters
that Van Gogh had come to know in 1886-1888. On pages 182-183 she wrote
about Charles Angrand and included a reproduction of Terrains vagues. The
painting itself would not be part of the exhibition. In an accompanying
statement she mentions the publications written by Tralbaut in which he
attributes the painting to Van Gogh under the title Les environs de Paris,
and she ends with [...] the author has attributed it to Charles Angrand.68
This sounds as if Tralbaut has had second thoughts, but by the author
Welsh-Ovcharov meant herself and not Tralbaut.
The exhibition opened on 3 February 1988, and Loebs heirs were dis-
mayed at what was written about their painting in the catalogue of Van
Gogh Paris. They immediately swung into action, and through their law-
yer demanded that the museum issue an erratum saying that Tralbaut re-
garded the work as a genuine Van Gogh. The museum must insert the er-
ratum in the catalogue, they insisted, which must then be sent to everyone
who already owned a copy. In future editions Welsh-Ovcharovs mistake
would have to be rectified.
Muse dOrsay refused to comply with this demand and asked three Van
Gogh experts and the Rijksmuseum Van Gogh to issue a verdict on the
works authenticity. Hulsker let the museum know that he had not included
it in his The Complete Van Gogh because he had been completely convinced
by Welsh-Ovcharovs study. He wrote that neither he nor his fellow editors
of the 1970 De la Faille had been persuaded that it was a Van Gogh. John
Rewald, the expert on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism; Van Gogh

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expert Ronald Pickvance; and the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh also as-
serted that it was not a Van Gogh but a genuine Charles Angrand. Muse
dOrsay wanted to have these statements included in the erratum as well.
The heirs decided to compromise. According to the agreement they entered
into with Muses de France, the Muse dOrsays highest administrative
authority, the contested pages 182 and 183 would be omitted from the cata-
logues second printing.69 Some experts had come out publicly for the Van
Gogh attribution and others had come out against it: Les environs de Paris
had landed in the purgatorio of controversial works of art.
As the years passed, a now familiar picture emerged. The heirs took great
pains to find experts who supported them in their attribution to Van Gogh
and their criticism of Welsh-Ovcharov. Her reading of the reviews of the
exhibition of the Socit des Artistes Indpendants of 1886 was fiercely at-
tacked. They had nothing at all to do with Les environs de Paris, it was
argued. Finally, via Benot Landais, they succeeded in getting Hulsker to
change his mind: he decided it was a Van Gogh. But that was not enough to
silence the criticism. In 1998, during a lecture at the Van Gogh symposium
held in the National Gallery in London, Welsh-Ovcharov made reference
to her publication of 1971 about Angrand and Van Gogh. Her statement on
Les environs de Paris reached the heirs, and they considered legal action. The
majority of experts, they insisted, had attributed the painting to Vincent
van Gogh. They did not want to deny Welsh-Ovcharov whatever freedom
of investigation she needed, but this freedom had its limits. Armed with her
academic authority, she had done serious material damage: the painting was
unmarketable as a Van Gogh or could only be sold for a much lower price.70

The Hauert case

In the battle over authenticity, interested parties sometimes threatened to
take legal steps against art experts if they happened to be the bearer of un-
welcome tidings. In the battle over catalogue contents, one interested party
the French lawyer Roger Hauert was led to take an unconventional step:
he summoned the Dutch state to appear before a French court. The cause
was a painting in his possession, Sunflowers in a Green Jug, to which De la
Faille had given a certificate of authenticity. De la Faille had traveled to
Paris in October 1947 especially for this purpose, and on the photo of the

the hauert case

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painting he wrote, I see only one man who could have painted this and
that man is Van Gogh.71 De la Faille probably told Hauert that the third
edition of the Van Gogh catalogue was in the works and would include this
canvas. Many years later, in 1963, a friend of Hauert at the RKD found a
photo of Sunflowers in a Green Jug in a box marked Fake Van Goghs. Hau-
ert wasted no time in his response. He demanded the address of the widow
De la Faille who, he said, as the rightful heir, should repair the damage that
De la Failles breach of confidence had caused. The RKD refused to sup-
ply the address. Hauert wanted to sell the canvas to a dealer, and the dealer
asked the editorial committee to confirm its authenticity. The committee
saw no reason to depart from De la Failles revised judgment, however. They
said the painting did not appear in his manuscript for the catalogue, and
they told the dealer it would not be included.72
Hammacher knew the canvas and endorsed De la Failles final judgment:
not Van Goghs work. The editorial committee concurred, and in February
1970, about eight months before the publication of the catalogue, they told
Hauert it would not be included.73 Hauert refused to take this lying down.
He instructed a Dutch lawyer to investigate the widow and the editorial
committee, and contended that De la Faille had never told him that he was
revoking his assessment of Sunflower in a Green Jug. The fact that the RKD
had found the photo of the painting in a collection of photos of fake Van
Goghs could have been coincidental. De la Faille was already in his seven-
ties when he began working on the new edition of the catalogue, Hauert
reasoned. At that age it is common for a man to make mistakes.
The editorial committee refused to relent, and Hauert decided to get
even by way of the Paris courts. He brought charges against the widow, the
RKD, and the editorial committee and demanded rectification. Speaking
about the incident in 2001, Hammacher said, I told the Dutch government
what was happening to me. They said I could count on their support and
cooperation. I went to Paris once, for a lengthy session. The painting was
there in the courtroom with its back to the wall. It stayed there for hours.
No one was talking about the painting. The lawyers were arguing about
whether a Dutchman should be convicted in a French court. It was a serious
question, and the arguing went on and on. I thought the case would take
two years at least. Within one year the Parisian lawyer had died and the case
was dropped. Never heard anything more about it.74 The support that the

the unfinished vincent

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government extended to Hammacher initially consisted of assigning him a
lawyer who worked out of the government attorneys office. How the gov-
ernment would have acted if the case had gone forward is unknown.

After the war was over, the government did not want to set up an Expertise
Institute. The reason is unclear. Perhaps the words from the prominent 19th
century Dutch Home Secretary Johan Rudolph Thorbecke The govern-
ment is not a judge of science and art played a role. It is also possible
that the minister was going by the advice he received from the directors
of the museums, who did not want to support such a body at that time.
They probably saw it as an infringement of their autonomy, and they did
not want to jeopardize their personal relations with art donors. Perhaps the
political persuasion of Sandberg and the Engineer, as well as the commo-
tion caused by Study by Candlelight in 1949, also played a role. These are all
speculations. We will never know the exact reasons because the documents
that might provide a conclusive answer are nowhere to be found. This is
what makes the publication of De la Failles posthumous catalogue such
an interesting story: unintentionally and unwittingly, the government was
drawn into conflicts over authenticity. The departments most highly placed
official for the arts, Dr. J. Hulsker, participated in the work of the editorial
committee as the ministers representative, and there is not a single docu-
ment to suggest that he abstained from making such judgments. On the
contrary, the 1970 catalogue listed him as an editor, and in that function
he was co-responsible for the works that De la Faille had deemed genuine
but the editors had not, and vice versa.75 The ministerial representative did
not serve as an observer but as a participant. The direct support of the
Dutch government for the reissue of a catalogue was a unique event. Never
before or since has the government ordered the compilation of a fully
documented catalogue raisonn of a Dutch master, since that is what it all
boils down to: the Dutch government acting as a judge of science and art.
Thorbecke would have turned over in his grave.


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Many people have discussed the subject of this book with me, either be-
cause they are directly involved in the matters dealt with here or because
they have encountered similar situations in the art world. I have also had
regular contact with persons who are not familiar with the inner workings
of the art world but who kept me on the right track by asking critical ques-
tions. A few took the trouble to read and mark up my manuscripts as well,
and have kept me from making many mistakes, both major and minor. I
mention here H. Balk, R. Bordewijk, M. ter Borg, E. Couve, H. Ebbink, P.
van der Eerden, J. Ellemers, W. Feilchenfeldt, P. Hecht, P. Hefting, B. Jans,
J. Joosten, T. Kdera, S. Koldehoff, J. Koldeweij, F. Leeman, M. te Mar-
velde, H. van Os, W. Rappard, P. de Ruiter, E. Schrage, R. Schumacher, A.
Tellegen, E. van Uitert, P. Verschoof, B. Welsh-Ovcharov, E. van de Weter-
ing, and J. van der Wolk.
Sadly, a few of the individuals whose conversations, correspondence,
and/or comments contributed substantially to my book are no longer with
us. They are J. Hulsker, expert on Van Goghs letters and artwork; A. Ham-
macher, director of the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller and editorial chair-
man of De la Failles posthumous Van Gogh catalogue; E. Joosten, curator
of the Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller; E. De Wilde, director of the Stedelijk
Museum Amsterdam and chairman of the Expertise Institute; W. Froentjes,
director of the Forensic Laboratory of the Ministry of Justice; and M.
Broekmeyer, the driving force behind the Foundation for Science and De-
mocracy. The last-named was responsible for providing me with financial
support for visits to Washington and Berlin. The Foundation also assisted
in the publication of the Dutch version of my book.
The families of the persons who appear in this book were also very kind
in their willingness to speak with me and to entrust documents to me or

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let me peruse them. J. Baart de la Faille has custody of documents by and
about his uncle, making it possible for the first time to obtain insight into
his motives and actions. D. van Dantzig offered me hospitality so I could
study her fathers correspondence. J. van Gogh answered my questions
about his father and undertook to correct factual inaccuracies in my ac-
count. G. Girard-Loeb gave me permission to study her fathers correspon-
dence. J. van Es granted me access to the archives of the dAudretsch Art
I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of
Education, Arts, and Sciences for making available to me documents hav-
ing to do with the matter described in Chapter 8. The Stedelijk Museum
in Amsterdam granted me permission to study the archives of the Expertise
Institute. I was able to explore documents there that throw new light on
questions mainly addressed in Chapters 3 and 8. My thanks go to M. Knies
for helping track down these documents. The staff at the National Gallery
of Art in Washington opened the museum archives to me. I am grateful to
P. Connisbee, Senior, Curator of European Paintings, for giving me permis-
sion to conduct investigations there. Ann Halpern helped in the study of
the curators folders. Restorer Ann Hoenigswald provided me with details
on the Van Gogh paintings in the museum collection, and researcher J. Or-
fila shared her knowledge of Maud and Chester Dale with me. I would like
to thank B. Gtze of the Zentralarchiv Staatliche Museen in Berlin for help-
ing me make my way through the documents having to do with the Wacker
affair. The Vincent van Gogh Foundation gave me permission to study and
cite passages from the Memoranda of Engineer V.W. van Gogh. The Neth-
erlands Institute for Art History the RKD has a wealth of material on
nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, and M. Op de Coul showed me how
to navigate it. She also read and commented on my manuscripts, for which
I am very grateful. The Krller-Mller Museum has a vast archive that was
not fully open for research when I began my study. Nevertheless, P. de
Jonge and B. Mhren made every effort to obtain permission for me to read
documents that were vital to a proper understanding of many of the events
covered in this book. The staff at the Van Gogh Museum assisted me in
many ways. L. van Tilborgh, research curator, with whom I had numerous
conversations, has commented on my articles over the years and provided
suggestions for topics. C. Stolwijk, head of research, gave me many useful


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tips. F. Pabst and M. Hageman offered me invaluable help in making the
museum archives and documents accessible. They also kept me from com-
mitting a number of slip-ups. A. Vriend and P. Schuil were able to turn the
museum library into one of the most pleasant places imaginable for doing
research. Id like to thank the editors of Jong Holland for commenting on
my article De Goetz-affaire, published in 2002, of which Chapter 8 is an
expanded and revised version. T. Meedendorp was always willing to answer
my questions on Van Goghs work. He was also very helpful at making sure
all the is were dotted and the ts were crossed. B. Landais shared his vast
knowledge of the work of Vincent van Gogh with me. He made available
to me his transcriptions of the correspondence of Paul Gachet and son, and
was helpful in many other ways.
The board of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of Leiden
University, in the person of P. Vedder, gave me the time and opportunity
to begin this study. The Department of Political Science of the same uni-
versity proved itself an inspiring host. The gravity and jocularity of the
coffee and lunch discussions were indispensible ingredients for increasing
the pleasure of my research period. I would especially like to thank J. van
Holsteyn and H. Oversloot for their encouragement and observations on
my manuscripts. I am also grateful to the Netherlands Organisation for
Scientific Research, who subsidized the English translation. Nancy Forest-
Flier and Rachel Esner (Chapters 3 and 7) skillfully handled the translation
of the text.
In conducting research that extends over such a long period and deals
with the subject in a rather unconventional way, personal setbacks are al-
most unavoidable. I often asked myself whether an anthropologist was the
best-equipped person to engage in a study of the Van Gogh world. But I
found a kindred spirit in Frank Bovenkerk, who has a preference for uncon-
ventional subjects. He gave me his unwavering support, commented on my
manuscripts, and made sure that the expanded Dutch version of this book
would be presented as a dissertation. Maritte Linders fully supported my
research and writing, and mustered the patience to listen to my tales of the
Van Gogh world over and over again.
In a recently published collection of essays entitled Het gevecht met de en-
gel, over verheffende en minder verheffende aspecten van het wetenschapsbedrijf
(Wrestling with the angel: On the edifying and less edifying aspects of the


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academic enterprise; 2003), Andr J.F. Kbben further developed the theme
of the researcher as bearer of unwelcome tidings. A Real Van Gogh is the ex-
pression of our common interest and would not have been written without
his encouragement and support. For this reason I dedicate it to him.

Amsterdam/Leiden, December 2009


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This account is based on G. Poulhain, Dans le maquis des faux, Comoedia, Decem-
ber , , and on J. Grard, Le crime de Julien Leclerq, manuscript, no page
numbers, undated. VGMA. Also see Van Kooten & Rijnders (eds.) , -.
See De la Faille a, ; and De la Faille , .
Compare Kbben and Tromp , .
Alexander .
Becker .
Alsop .
Kempers .
Gibson-Wood , Secrest .
Balk , De Ruiter .
Merton (originally ). For criticism of his work, see Mitroff , Ziman
, Krimsky , Kbben .
Kbben and Tromp , -.
Kbben and Tromp , .
Kbben and Tromp , -; -.
Art historical research concerning Vincent van Gogh has traditionally been dominated
by a focus on his work and person: thousands of publications have been written on
his paintings and drawings. There is no lack of serious biographies, eitherat least
fiftyin addition to the hundreds of biographical sketches included in catalogues.
Vincents medical condition has also produced enough works to fill many bookshelves.
No museum in the world has more documentation on any one artist than the Van Gogh
Museum in Amsterdam has on Vincent van Gogh. This production still continues, and
it reflects art historys hard core: research on works of art, artists, schools, and styles. In
recent decades, however, more and more research has been conducted on others in the
art world: collectors, dealers, museums, critics, the media, and the public. This exten-
sion of the research area has also enriched research on Van Gogh. The rest of this note
comprises a brief and by no means representative summary. Carol D. Zemel () has
written about the appreciation of art critics for Van Goghs work in the Netherlands,
France, Germany, and England; Walter Feilchenfeldt () on the role of the Berlin
art dealer Paul Cassirer in spreading Van Goghs fame in Germany; Hans Oversloot
() on the first Russian collectors of Van Gogh. Kdera Tsukasa (), editor of
the book The mythology of Vincent van Gogh, has brought together a number of articles
about the cultural significance of Van Gogh in the twentieth century and his influence
on belles-lettres, films, and the visual arts. Gerald Bronkhorst () has written on
the history of the Van Gogh Museum; Nathalie Heinich () on the Van Gogh cult.
Cynthia Saltzman () discusses the lives of the Dutch, Danish, German, and Japa-
nese owners of Van Goghs Portrait of Dr. Gachet to introduce the reader to years of

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cultural change. Benot Landais () has written about the relationship between Van
Gogh and Paul Gachet, and so have Distel and Stein (). Vincent van Gogh is an
important theme in both Peter de Ruiters biography () of A.M. Hammacher and
Hildelies Balks biography () of H.P. Bremmer. The recent catalogue of Van Gogh
paintings in the Krller-Mller (Van Kooten & Rijnders, eds.; ) contains separate
chapters on early collectors of Vincent van Gogh in addition to the usual descriptive
and historical information on his works. The Van Gogh Museum publishes an annual
Journal that frequently contains articles on dealers, collectors, and exhibitions. Rood-
enburg-Schadd () has written on the importance of putting works by Van Gogh
out on loan for the collection policy of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam between
and .
Leune , -.

Chapter 1
J.B. de la Faille, Aan een kind. Vox studiosorum, May .
Letter of ATAG, dated May . De la Faille declined ATAGs offer but accepted
that of the General National Party.
Mededeling, De Telegraaf, September ; and Neutraliteit en kunsthandel, De
Telegraaf, December .
The Dutch section of the League was founded on July . Also see J.B. de la Faille,
Het zeppelinbezoek, De Telegraaf, September ; J.B. de la Faille, Open brief,
Vox studiosorum, October ; J.B. de la Faille, Het voorwoord van Prof. Mr. J.
Baron dAulnis de Bourouill bij het boek De voorgeschiedenis van den Oorlog door
W. Graadt van Roggen, Vox studiosorum, December .
J.B. de la Faille, De zeevisserij, Nieuws van de dag, August .
In the sculpture was moved to Porte Saint-Paul in Verdun.
Political repression in the Netherlands was relatively mild during those years, but not
entirely absent. The editor-in-chief of De Telegraaf ended up in jail in for publish-
ing anti-German articles, so fearful were the Dutch authorities of offending Prussian
sensibilities. Moeyes , -.
Haffner , -.
Saltzman , xxiii.
Koldehoff , and Dorn & Feilchenfeldt , .
(J.B. de la Faille), Kunsthandelaar of museumdirecteur, Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Cour-
ant, September ; October .
(J.B. de la Faille), Kunsthandelaar of museumdirecteur, NRC, September .
Museumdirecteur, geen kunsthandelaar, NRC, October .
Le monde nouveau, NRC, January and J.B. de la Faille, Les faux Rem-
brandts, Le monde nouveau, January . J.B. de la Faille, Wedergevonden of
nieuw-ontdekte Rembrandts, NRC, February .
Letter of F. Schmid Degener, January . J.B. de la Faille, Remembrances from
September to May .
J.B. de la Faille, Expertise van schilderijen en kunstvoorwerpen, De veilingbode, De-
cember . pp. -.
Among the publications that featured it were De Indische verlofganger. Officieel orgaan
van de Vereniging van Indische verlofgangers, March ; La gazette de Hollande,
March ; Prger Presse, January ; Neue Zrcher Zeitung, January ;
Haarlems Dagblad, January .
Veth , .
Ibid., .
Ibid., .


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J.B. de la Faille, Expertisebureaus, De Veilingbode, March . Also see J.B. de la
Faille, De valse Frans Hals, De Veilingbode, May .
J.B. de la Faille, De ste tentoonstelling der Secession te Berlijn III, De Fakkel,
June .
In the posthumous De la Faille catalogue of , the editorial committee put
as the year the compiling began (De la Faille , ). De la Faille himself said it
started in (Anon., Zes maal een persoonlijke kijk op Van Gogh en zijn inv-
loed, Het Vrije Volk, March ). In February his request for information
from owners of Van Goghs work was published in De Telegraaf and Algemeen Han-
delsblad. In Formes, December , p. , he wrote that he had been working on the
catalogue for five years. The initial idea and groundwork on the catalogue could date
to around , however, because he had sold works by Van Gogh as auctioneer at
Muller & Co.
See Feilchenfeldt , . De la Faille knew Sternheim and had written the preface to
his Van Gogh en Gauguin ().
Stolwijk & Veenenbos , pp. -.
De la Faille served as curator for several exhibitions, among them: Galerie Dru (Paris),
Aquarelles, dessins et pastels de Van Gogh (-) du juin au juillet :
Avant-propos de J.-B. de la Faille; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Tentoonstelling
van Teekeningen en aquarellen door Vincent van Gogh ( October November
); for the Rotterdamsche Kring, Tentoonstelling van Teekeningen en aquarellen
door Vincent van Gogh ( December January ). Lectures: SMA,
October , De Teekenaar Vincent van Gogh; Rotterdamse Kring, December
, Introduction to the drawing exhibition; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Sep-
tember , Vincent van Gogh en zijn kunst; Genootschap Nederland-Frankrijk,
October , Lecture with slides, Vincent van Gogh en zijn werk; Stedelijk Mu-
seum, October , Vincent van Gogh; Arnhem, Mij tot nut v/h Algemeen,
December , Vincent van Gogh. In Germany: Hannover, Thursday, April
, Kestner-Gesellschaft E.V. In Austria: Vienna, February , Van Gogh als
Zeichner; February , Van Gogh als Maler.
De la Failles mediation in the sale of at least three paintings is recorded in correspond-
ence between him and Engineer V.W. van Gogh. VGM, b V/.
Text on a loose sheet of paper inserted in J.B. de la Faille , Library VGM. See:
Gazette de lhtel Drouot, October .
De la Faille traced his ancestry to the Huguenots who fled France in the seventeenth
century and found refuge in the Netherlands. It was an assumed identity; according to
a statement from his nephew, J. Baart de la Faille, his ancestors almost certainly did not
come from France.
J. Zwartendijk, Een zeldzame uitgave, NRC, February .
Kasper Niehaus, J.B. de la Faille, Het werk van Vincent van Gogh, De Telegraaf,
The Burlington Magazine, no. , vol. LII, June , pp. -, and no. , vol.
LIII, October , pp. -.
Biermann, J.B. de la Faille, Luvre de Vincent van Gogh, Cicerone, July , pp.
-. R.B., Luvre de Vincent van Gogh, La revue de lart, November , p. .
Balk , -.
Balk , .
See Hilhorst and Balk , .
B. van der Leck, In Memoriam dr. H.P. Bremmer, Museumjournaal, part /, ,
pp. -.
See De la Faille , vol. III, , .
Stegeman , .


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N. Eissenloeffelss Kunsthandel, Betreffende kunstexpertises (no date), RKD, Archive of
Eissenloeffels Kunsthandel. Also see Balk , -.
Ten Berge , .
Balk , .
Not to be confused with the Society for the Formation of a Collection of Modern Art
in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, formed in .
Letter of H.P. Bremmer to De la Faille, April . SMA Exhibition Adam .
Letter of H. Krller-Mller to De la Faille, May . SMA Exhibition Adam .
See Dirven & Wouters .
I am following De la Failles account here, which speaks of four canvases being refused.
According to Grete Ring there were three: see Ring , .
See Ring , Faille . Anon. Van Gogh-schilderijen vervalscht met fabelachtig
meesterschap, Het Volk, November . The four canvases are F , F , F
bis and F . See: A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () p. . RKD,
De Wild Archive. Anon. Valsche Van Goghs? De Telegraaf, November .
Copy of letter of V.W. van Gogh to J.B. de la Faille, March . VGM b
Mr. De la Faille dient van repliek, De Telegraaf, December .
Fnf Van Goghs echt? De la Faille berrascht das Gericht durch seine Zeugenaussage,
Berliner Brsen-Courier, April Abends.
Van Gogh-schilderijen vervalst met fabelachtig meesterschap, Het Volk, November
Dertig valse Van Goghs, De Telegraaf, November .
Vincent van Gogh, Nieuwe Courant, December .
Letter of J.B. de la Faille to L. Justi, May . ZMB I/NG , .
Dertig valse Van Goghs, De Telegraaf, November .
Van Goghs bestimmt falsch, Berliner Nachtausgabe, November .
Berliner Zeitung, Berliner illustrierte Nachtausgabe, Vossische Zeitung.
Nieuws over de Van Goghs, De Telegraaf, December .
Vincent van Gogh. De vervalsingen, Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant, December .
On December , Het Vaderland published photographs of six paintings under the
headline De zogenaamd Valse Van Goghs.
De valsche Van Goghs, Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant, December ; Anon. De
valsche Van Goghs, De Standaard, December . For the Netherlands Art Buy-
ers Association, see Heijbroek & Wouthuysen , .
Nieuw stadium in de Van Gogh affaire, De Telegraaf, November .
H.P. Bremmer, De valsche Van Goghs, De Nieuwe Courant, December .
Afwijkende meningen over de Van Gogh-falsificaties, De Telegraaf, December .
Vincent van Gogh, de vervalsingen: Een beschouwing van H.P. Bremmer, NRC,
December .
J.B. de Faille, Vincent van Gogh: De vervalsingen, NRC, December .
Vincent van Gogh, NRC January .
Copy of bill from Kunstzaal dAudretsch to A.G. Krller, December . JE.
Letter of Galerie Matthiesen to H. Krller-Mller, April . KMM HA .
For F , see Ten Berge et al., , -. Ten Berge assumed that Krller-Mller
had bought the canvas in or later and had then sold or given it to her secretary,
Van Deventer. However, the canvas was sold to Van Deventer in by the Mat-
thiesen gallery via the Huinck & Scherjon gallery. See Chapter .
Copy of letter from H. Krller-Mller to B. Hesse, February . KMM, HA
Copy of letter from O. Wacker to H.P. Bremmer, January . KMM, HA.
Zwendel met schilderijen, De Avondpost, April .


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H.P. Bremmer, Afbeelding : Visschersbooten, bij St. Maries, Beeldende Kunst, no.
, March , pp. -.
See Beeldende Kunst, July , figure : Landscape (= F , Two Poplars); March
, figure : Fishing Boats at St. Maries (= F , Seascape).

Chapter 2
See Koldehoff a, .
Correspondence of O. Wacker with the Nationalgalerie, see ZMB, I/NG , -.
The drawing is F , Enclosed wheat field with reaper. See the provenance in De la
Faille , . Wacker would have bought it from F.M. Wibaut in Amsterdam.
See Sterns classical study of .
For the reception of Van Goghs work in Germany, see Eckhardt , Zemel ,
Bridgewater , Feilchenfeldt , Manheim , Kdera (ed.) , Heinich
, and Koldehoff .
Krockow , -.
See Paul , - and Paret a, .
J. Meier-Graefe, Die Zeichnung Van Goghs, Frankfurter Zeitung, October .
This is the most frequently mentioned figure. Other newspaper reports claimed there
were fewer (De Maasbode of April put it at eleven).
On Meier-Graefe, see Moffett , Koldehoff , and Meier-Graefe .
J. Meier-Graefe, Der Maler mit den schwachen Stunden, Berliner Tageblatt, Febru-
ary . Ring , . Also see Van Goghs vervalst? De Telegraaf, April .
Letter of J. Meier-Graefe to V.W. van Gogh, November . VGM, bV/;
letter of V.W. van Gogh to J. Meier-Graefe, December . VGM, bV/;
and letter of J. Meier-Graefe to V.W. van Gogh, December . VGM, bV/.
Meier-Graefe, Die Van Gogh Frage, Berliner Tageblatt, December .
Anonymous [=A.M. de Wild] In en om het proces Van Gogh, Het Vaderland, April
. De zaak van de valsche Van Goghs, De Maasbode, April . Also see the
manuscript of Bremmers wife: Bremmer-Beekhuis [-], . Here reference is
made to the transcription of M. Straasheijm () in the library of the Kunsthistorisch
Instituut of the University of Amsterdam.
Otto Wacker aan het woord, De Telegraaf, November .
Letter of O. Wacker to W. Scherjon, July . VGM, Archives of Kunsthandel
Huinck & Scherjon -.
Vreemde houding van dr. Wacker, Het Volk, December .
I. Goldschmidt, Der Fall Wacker, Frankfurter Zeitung, January .
Frau Krller kauft einen zweifelhaften Van Gogh, Vossische Zeitung, January .
De valsche Van Goghs, De Maasbode, January . For Russian collectors of Van
Gogh, see Oversloot .
Zimmermann , .
On Liebermann, see Meissner and Schtz . On the Berliner Secession, see
Paret b.
On the other hand, Ludwig Thormaehlen, sculptor and curator of the Nationalgalerie from
to , was a conrmed anti-Semite until his death in . See Blume , .
Scheffler .
Hentzen , .
Letter of L. Thormaehlen to O. Kramer, December . ZMB, I/NG , . In
December identical letters were written to A. Lewin, B.E. Wolff, and C. Stern-
heim. The letters were drafted on Justis orders.
Matthiesen had taken back all the Wacker paintings on consignment after the publica-
tion of De la Failles Supplment, subject to repayment of the purchase price (approxi-


A Real Van Gogh.indd 309 29-5-2010 15:24:05

mately , reichsmarks). De valsche Van Goghs: Een aanklacht tegen Wacker
ingediend, Algemeen Handelsblad, December ; and Vincent van Gogh: Een
aanklacht tegen Wacker, NRC, December .
Copy of letter from L. Justi to Barth, January . The letter is erroneously dated .
At the end of January, the following works were in the Nationalgalerie: Self-Portrait (F
), Basket with Rolls (F ), Cypresses (F ), Cypresses (F ), Seascape (F ),
Houses at Saintes-Maries (F ), Peasant after Millet (F ), Sower after Millet (F ),
and Landscape with Olive Trees (F ). The painting seized from Leonhard Wackers
studio, The Mower, is not in De la Failles Van Gogh catalogue, but it is included in De
la Failles Les faux Van Gogh of and has since been designated F(aille)F(aux) .
L. Justi, Van Gogh, die Kenner und Schriftsteller, Vossische Zeitung, January .
Also see Justi , -.
Nasporingen in de Van Gogh-kwestie, De Telegraaf, January .
J. Meier-Graefe, Der Maler mit den Schwachen Stunden, Berliner Tageblatt, Febru-
ary .
Ring , .
Letter of H. Krller-Mller to L. Justi, February . ZMB, I/NG . Letter of L.
Justi to H. Krller-Mller, February . KMM, HA . For this incident,
also see Van der Wolk , - and Balk , .
Letter from the Matthiesen gallery to the Nationalgalerie, January , as well as a
copy of the answer from the Nationalgalerie on the same sheet of paper, dated Janu-
ary . ZMB, I/NG Ausstellung .
Letter from the Matthiesen gallery to H. Krller-Mller, April . KMM, HA
See the facsimile of Bremmers list of fake and genuine Wacker-Van Goghs in Veth ,
-. He mentions Bowl with potatoes (F ), also known as Still Life with Rolls.
In March , four months after the court ruling on Otto Wackers appeal, the seizure
was withdrawn.
Letter from the Matthiesen gallery to H. Krller-Mller, April . KMM, HA
W. Bondy, Die Van Gogh-Bilder: Technisches ber die Flschungen, Die Kunstauk-
tion, February , -.
De Van Gogh-falsificaties slecht uitgevoerd, De Telegraaf, February . The
newspaper erroneously referred to Die Kunstantiquitten, a non-existent periodical.
De vervalste Van Goghs: Nieuwe aanwijzingen tegen de familie Wacker, De Telegraaf,
January .
Roepers , .
Houdt Wacker zich weg? De Haagsche Post, February .
Otto Wacker, De Maasbode, March .
Verergerde toestand van Otto Wacker, De Telegraaf, July .
Copy of a letter from the Nationalgalerie to H. Krller-Mller, October .
ZMB, I/NG , .
Scheffler , .
Copy of a letter from L. Justi to R. Mring, March . ZMB, I/NG -.
Justi also wanted to buy three Picassos from Rosenberg. These were sent to Berlin along
with Daubignys Garden in March, but Justi kept this information from the acquisitions
commission because he knew the commission saw nothing in Picasso. He hoped to
purchase the Picassos with funds from the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie.
On June , the Nationalgalerie obtained F from the Bernheim Jeune art gal-
lery in Paris in exchange for three paintings by Vuillard (valued at , francs) and
a payment of , francs. Copy of a letter from L. Justi to P. Ebstein, June .
ZMB, I/NG , .


A Real Van Gogh.indd 310 29-5-2010 15:24:05

Letter of J.A. Thomas to the directors of the Nationalgalerie, May . ZMB, I/
NG ,
No author, no title (in manuscript Letzte Fassung), no date, pp. ZMB, I/NG -
. The author was almost certainly Ludwig Thormaehlen.
Een nieuwe Affaire Wacker? De Telegraaf, July . De Van Gogh-affaire, De
Telegraaf, September . De Van Gogh-kwestie: Hoe staat het met de beweerde
vervalsingen? De Telegraaf, November .

Chapter 3
Van den Brandhof , -.
Hofstede de Groot , .
Froentjes and De Wild .
Letter from J. Walker to A.M. de Wild, March . RKD, A.M. de Wild Archive.
Letter from J.R.J. Asperen de Boer to A.M. de Wild, December . RKD, A.M.
de Wild Archive.
Invoices of D. de Wild, dated January , May , January , Febru-
ary . KMM, booking position KMS //.
Afwijkende meningen over de Van Gogh-falsificaties, De Telegraaf, December .
De valse Van Goghs. De advocaat van Otto Wacker spreekt, De Oprechte Haarlemmer
Courant, January .
J.B. de la Faille, Repliek van dr. De la Faille, De Telegraaf, December .
Koldehoff , . See also Dorn and Feilchenfeldt , .
On Maud Dale, see Garraty -, -.
Dale Arts Value over Million, New York Times, May .
For the people, Newsweek, May .
Walker , .
Letter from J. Stransky (on Wildenstein & Co, NY, letterhead) to C. Dale, May
. NGAW, RG. Donor Files - Dale, Chester, Van Gogh Material Regard-
ing Authenticity [c. -, , ].
Loan exhibition of Modern French Art from the Chester Dale Collection, for the Benefit
of the French Hospital of New York. October, . Wildenstein Galleries, Fifth
Avenue, New York.
E.A. Jewell, Goya and Modern Art, New York Times, October, .
The Art Galleries, New Yorker, October .
H. McBride, cited in French Art of Today, Literary Digest, November .
Miljoenen vervalsingen, De Telegraaf, December . De dertig valse Van
Goghs, Algemeen Handelsblad, December .
Expert Now Holds Thirty Van Gogh Fakes, Sold in Berlin at Prices up to ,
Each, New York Times, November . N.Y. Art Gem called Fake by Authority,
New York American, December . Chester Dale Van Gogh is Attacked, Art News,
December .
Bremmers magazines Moderne Kunstwerken and Beeldende Kunst from onwards
by Willem Versluys (-) in Amsterdam. From Beeldende Kunst appeared
under the names of Bremmer and Scherjon. See Balk , .
Scherjon wrote in the NRC of January : [...] I [...] set great store by my almost
thirty-five years of friendship with Mr. Bremmer, from whom I have learned so much
and who was also the one to kindle my enormous enthusiasm for Van Gogh.
De Ruiter , -.
Minutes of the board meeting of the association Voor de kunst on October .
-. UA.
Ebbink et al. , .


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Letter from W. Scherjon to C. Dale, February . Transcript of a letter from M.
Dale to W. Scherjon, March . NGAW, RG. Donor Files -. Dale,
Chester, Van Gogh Material Regarding Authenticity [c. -, , ].
F , like Chester Dales F , is now in the possession of the National Gallery of Art
in Washington.
Vincent van Gogh. Tentoonstelling Voor de kunst te Utrecht, NRC, June .
Vincent van Gogh. Een echt en een valsch zelfportret op de Van Gogh-tentoonstel-
ling te Utrecht, De Maasbode, May .
Just Havelaar, Een Van Gogh vervalsing? Het Vaderland, May .
Zelfportretten Vincent van Gogh. Een der twee zou valsch zijn! Utrechtsche Courant,
May .
W. Jos de Gruyter, Waar is het tweede zelfportret? Utrechtsch Provinciaals en Stedelijk
Dagblad, June .
Vincent van Gogh. Een echt en een valsch zelfportret op de Van Gogh-tentoonstel-
ling te Utrecht, De Maasbode, May .
J.B. de la Faille, Het zelfportret van Chester Dale, Utrechtsch Provinciaals en Stedelijk
Dagblad, June . J.B. de la Faille, De z.g. valse Van Goghs, Het Vaderland,
September . J.B. de la Faille, De Van Gogh zaak, De Telegraaf, September
Declaration signed: W. Scherjon. Place: s-Gravenhage. Date: June . RKD, A.M.
de Wild Archive, file , Vincent van Gogh.
Transcription of a letter from M. Dale to P. Rosenberg, March . NGAW. RG
Donor Files - Dale, Chester, Van Gogh Material Regarding Authenticity [c.
-, , ].
Letter from W. Scherjon to C. Dale, February . Transcription of a letter from
C. Dale to W. Scherjon, March . NGAW, RG Donor Files - Dale,
Chester, Van Gogh Material Regarding Authenticity [c. -, , ].
W. Scherjon, Het valse Van Gogh drama. Het schilderij Twee populieren in het
Centraal Museum, Utrechtsch Provinciaals en Stedelijk Dagblad, July .
Namely Wheatfield with Sower (F ), in in the collection of V.W. van Gogh; The
Harvest (F ) acquired in by the Nationalgalerie in Berlin); and The Sower, not
given an F number by De la Faille, but listed and illustrated in his Les faux Van Gogh
(, , Pl. XVIII). See also Koldehoff , .
See Scherjon b.
Transcription of a letter from H. Krller-Mller to J.A. Thomas, July . KMM,
HA .
Transcription of a letter from H. Krller-Mller to W. Scherjon, July . KMM,
Letter from W. Scherjon to H. Krller-Mller, July . KMM, HA .
Concerning the Wacker Pictures, n.p., n.d. pp. In: Chester Dale Scrapbooks.
NGAW Library.
The exception is Hugo Perls, who does mention the Wacker affair in his memoirs, al-
though without discussing his own role. See Perls , -.
Secrest , -.
H. Lester Cooke, A Plunger in the Market, Chester Dale and his Collection, . From
an unidentified magazine kept in AAA, Chester Dale papers, -, reel , no.
F.W. Coburn, In the world of art, Boston Herald, November . Cited in Sandler
and Newman , -.
More than twenty years later, in , De Wild shared his knowledge with the secretary
of the Expertise Instituut, M. de Sablonire. She wrote to Van Gogh expert Tralbaut:
More or less in confidence: I spoke to Dr. De Wild, who was a witness at the Wacker


A Real Van Gogh.indd 312 29-5-2010 15:24:05

trial. At the time he had examined all the forgeries and the authentic picture as well, I
think and they turned out to be all of the same workmanship. I believe it was Scher-
jon who asked him to examine the Chester Dale portrait in the same way. According
to him [De Wild] it was a fake, the same technique. Letter from M. de Sablonire to
M.E. Tralbaut, May . VGM.
According to the statements of W. Froentjes and the inscription on the box, the sam-
ples from the Wacker Van Goghs were all taken in -. (The box, as well as
Froentjes archive, has been in the possession of the Nederlands Forensisch Instituut
in The Hague since July .) We are certain only that F was examined in early
June in The Hague. There is no other documentation of the place or dates of the
analyses of the other samples. F and F were probably examined in November
. F bis was brought to The Hague at the end of January and was probably
examined shortly thereafter. I was unable to trace a date in - for F , F
and F .
Letter from M.H.G. Renkewitz to M. Dale, December . NGAW, ..
(), Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait. Chester Dale Collection. Letter from M.H.G.
Renkewitz to H. Krller-Mller, December . KMM.
Sale list of the exhibition J. Lodeizen, KA, File , Pricelists. The archive of dAudretsch
contains an expertise by Bremmer on the Haystacks, dated May . W. Jos. de
Gruyter discusses it in Het Vaderland, September . A.M. Hammacher in the
NRC, September .
Kunsthandel Huinck & Scherjon, Catalogus tentoonstelling van schilderijen door Vincent
van Gogh, J.B. Jongkind, Floris Verster. Amsterdam May - June .
Letter from H.P. Bremmer to S. van Deventer, October . KMM, HA .
There are no indications that dAudretsch knew anything about De Wilds examina-
Van Deventer , .
Quoted in ibid., .

Chapter 4
Dertig valse Van Goghs? De Telegraaf, November . The anonymous art dealer
quoted in the article is probably J. Siedenburg of the Buffa gallery.
De la Faille , .
De la Faille , .
Duret was not always so lucky. In the Bernheim-Jeune gallery issued a recall to the
owners of Durets Van Gogh, which they had published in . The reason: the Van
Gogh drawing on the cover was a fake, as were eight of the drawings and paintings pic-
tured in the book. Source: Laaire des faux Van Gogh, Aux coutes, December .
De la Faille , -.
Ibid., .
Letter of F. Schmidt Degener to J.B. de la Faille, January . BF.
J. Zwartendijk, Les faux Van Gogh, NRC, February .
C.J.H., Les faux Van Gogh: Par J.B. de la Faille, Burlington Magazine, August ,
; F. Rutter, Van Gogh and his forgers, Sunday Times, September ; Frank
Davis, A page for collectors: A modern picture scandal: the Van Gogh Fakes, Illus-
trated London News, June , ; J.H. de Bois, De valsche Van Goghs, Haar-
lems Dagblad, January ; Van Gogh-vervalsing, De Telegraaf, November
K. Grant Sterne, The Van Gogh Controversy, International Studio, November ,
pp. -.
P. Fierens, Les faux Van Gogh, Feuilleton du Journal des dbats, April .


A Real Van Gogh.indd 313 29-5-2010 15:24:05

Letter of W. J. de Gruyter to J. Zwartendijk, February . MBB, Dossier Verval-
singen V.v.Gogh.
W.J. de Gruyter, Echt of valsch? Van Goghs Twee populieren bij den Kunsthandel
Huinck en Scherjon te Amsterdam, Elseviers Gellustreerd Maandschrift, July , pp.
W.J. de Gruyter, De valsche Van Goghs, NRC, February .
Ibid. W.J. de Gruyter, Hollandsche en Fransche kunst in den Kunsthandel Huinck en
Scherjon te Amsterdam, De Nieuwe Courant, June . Also see his defence in Het
Vaderland, April , Nederlandsche en Fransche Schilderkunst: Bij Huinck en
Scherjon, Amsterdam. In he also reproduced Two Poplars as an example of Van
Goghs artistry in his Wezen en ontwikkeling der Europeesche schilderkunst na .
E. Faure, propos des Faux van Gogh, LArt vivant, April , pp. -. J.B. de
la Faille, Rponse larticle de M. Elie Faure, LArt vivant, June , pp. -.
Fasseur , .
See Moeyes , -, -.
Fasseur , -.
Letter of H. Krller-Mller to S. van Deventer, September , quoted in Van De-
venter , .
Van Deventer .
See Elseviers Gellustreerd Maandschrift, , .
Begemann , .
Letter from H. Krller-Mller to S. van Deventer, April , quoted in Van De-
venter , .
Quoted by Wennekes .
For A. Krller also see Haak & Hofman .
The first written plans for the transfer of the collection to the Dutch state date to ;
the definitive transfer took place in . (Ten Berge, c, .)
De la Faille probably wanted to include the contemporaries in the exhibition in order to
encourage museums and private individuals to buy their works. At the opening of the
exhibition of drawings and watercolors by Van Gogh, organized at the end of by the
Friends of Vincent van Gogh and His Time, he said that museums in Germany, England,
and the US were buying their work, but not in the Netherlands: Almost no one here
owns works by Manet, Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin or Czanne, while Monet, Raphaelli,
Sisley and Pissarro are not represented at all. See Tekeningen en aquarellen van Vincent
van Gogh: In het Stedelijk Museum, Algemeen Handelsblad, October .
Minutes of Friends of Vincent van Gogh and his Time, February . SMA, Am-
sterdam exhibition, .
Letter of A. Hahnloser to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, June . SMA, Am-
sterdam exhibition, .
Letter of D.C. Rell to De la Faille, June . SMA, Amsterdam exhibition, .
Letter of Polak to Van Dam van Isselt, July . GAA, Department of Art Affairs
no. , Van Gogh Exhibition.
W. Scherjon, De vermeende vervalsingen van Van Gogh, NRC, May . Also
see J.C.M. Garnier, (Report concerning fingerprints), Utrecht, May . MBB,
Dossier Forgeries V.v. Gogh.
Vincent van Gogh, NRC, June . Bertillonage en expertise van kunstwerken,
NRC, June .
W.J. de Gruyter, Hollandsche en Fransche kunst in den Kunsthandel Huinck en
Scherjon te Amsterdam, De Nieuwe Courant, June . Also see De Gruyter .
Verver, Hollandsche en Fransche kunst bij Huinck & Scherjon, Amsterdam, De
Haagsche Post, June .
H.P. Bremmer, Beeldende Kunst, July , Landschap, .


A Real Van Gogh.indd 314 29-5-2010 15:24:05

Letter of C. Baard to the Alderman for Art Affairs, November . GAA. Depart-
ment of Art Affairs no. , Van Gogh Exhibition.
Huinck & Scherjon had a different reading of the events. According to Baard and Rell,
a tentative selection was made from the gallerys holdings, and they never would have
considered asking for Two Poplars for the exhibition.
Editorial, Vincent van Gogh, De Gids, , IV, -.
Oprechte Haarlemsche Courant, September .
Vincent van Gogh, NRC, September .
J.H. de Bois, De Van Gogh Tentoonstelling, Het Volk, September .
Letter of De la Faille, October, no year []. RKD.
Albert Plasschaert, Van Gogh, De Groene Amsterdammer, December . (Italics
in the original)
G. Knuttel Wzn, Vincent van Gogh en zijn tijdgenoten: Tentoonstelling in het Stedel-
ijk Museum Amsterdam, september- november , De kunst der Nederlanden,
November , . (Italics in the original)
Veiling van valse schilderijen, Het Vaderland, November .
Letter of S.J. Mak van Waay to J. Zwartendijk, November . MBB, Dossier
Forgeries V.v. Gogh.
Letters of S.J. Mak van Waay to J. Zwartendijk, November and September
. MBB, Dossier Forgeries V.v. Gogh.

Chapter 5
J.B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh en zijn tijdgenoten te Amsterdam, NRC, No-
vember , evening edition.
Wegen der geflschten Van Goghs: Anklage gegen Kunsthndler Wacker Anfang No-
vember zu erwarten, Lokalanzeiger, October .
P. Westheim, Um die Van Gogh-Flschungen: Staatsanwalt erhebt Anklage gegen
Wacker, Brsen Zeitung, August .
Veth a, .
Ibid., .
Ibid., .
Valsche Van Goghs? NRC, April .
Koomen, Schoon schip, Weekblad van Rotterdam, April . Schoon schip!
Algemeen Handelsblad, February . De zaak van de valse Van Goghs, De Maas-
bode, February . Schoon schip! De Telegraaf, March .
De zaak van de valsche Van Goghs, De Maasbode, February .
J. Zwartendijk, Cornelis Veth: Schoon schip! NRC, March .
Max Osborn, Neuer Van Gogh-Lrm, Vossische Zeitung, March .
Letter of Thomas to H. Krller-Mller, May . KMM, HA .
Echte Van Goghs bei Wacker? Eine Brochure von Cornelis Veth, Deutsche Algemeine
Zeitung, April .
J.B. de la Faille, Veths Schoon schip, NRC, April .
Max Liebermann, Justi und seine Sachverstndigen-Kommission, in: Kunst und Kn-
stler, vol. XXXI, no. III, March .
The dossiers of the lawyer, the prosecuting attorney, and the judges, the report of the
sessions, the attorneys plea, and the judgment have all been lost. A.M. de Wild wrote
a personal account of the trial in April . The most important sources for the re-
construction of the two trials are the more than articles in the Dutch and German
press. For the Wacker trial, also see: Arnau , -; Schller , -;
Jeppson , -; Hentzen , -; Feilchenfeldt ; Dorn & Feilchen-
feldt ; -, Koldehoff , - and -.


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This formulation of the charge was taken from Der Proze um die Wackerschen Van
Goghs, Berliner Brsen-Courier, April .
Der Tnzer Wacker: Erster Tag des Van Gogh-Prozesses, Vossische Zeitung, April
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
Valsche Van Goghs? Het proces te Berlijn, NRC, April .
Getuigenverhoor in het proces-Wacker, De Telegraaf, April .
Kriminalisten im Van Gogh-Prozess, Berliner Tageblatt, April .
Valse Van Goghs? Het proces te Berlijn, NRC, April .
Mitteilung De la Faille, April . RKD. Doos Van Gogh Knipsels Tentoonstelling
Nederland tot .
Feilchenfeldt , . Otto Wacker told the court on April that Haystacks
(F ) would be sent back to the Russian. See A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No
date () p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date. () p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
Letters of De la Faille to Scherjon, May and September , respectively.
Letter of Scherjon to De la Faille of September . VGM, Archief Kunsthandel
Huinck & Scherjon. Thanks to Tomoko Murayama for reports on the content of the
Japanese text of Kodera . Also see Koldehoff , -.
Justi, L. , -. Compare Justi , and Hentzen .
(=A.M. de Wild), Het proces over de Van Goghs: Mr. Baart de la Faille als getuige,
Het Vaderland, April .
According to De Wild, Bremmer said the following were genuine: F , F bis, F
, F , F , F , F , F and one more Reaper. Bremmer said the fake
paintings were: F bis, F , F , F , F , F , F , F , F , F
, F , F . See A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () pp. , .
RKD, De Wild Archive.
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
For an illustration, see De la Faille Pl. XVIII and XIX. De la Faille called this
unnumbered version of The Reaper a fake, and compared it with F and F . Ac-
cording to De la Faille (, -), F The Reaper of the Nationalgalerie was the
model on which the fake Wacker Van Gogh was based. In , F was also deemed
a fake: in other words, the forger may have used a forgery as his model. According to
De la Faille, Bremmer issued a certificate of authenticity for this Wacker Van Gogh.
(=De Wild) In en om het proces Van Gogh, Het Vaderland, Saturday, April .
De zaak van de valsche Van Goghs: Welke waarde heeft deskundigheid berhaupt
eigenlijk nog? vraagt de verdediger, De Maasbode, April .
Het proces over de werken van Van Gogh: Een opzienbarende verklaring van mr. Baart
de la Faille, NRC, April .
According to a few newspapers, Scherjon mentioned eight, but De Wild noted that
Scherjon, like Bremmer, named a ninth painting, Het maaiertje the little reaper. See
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () pp. -. RKD, De Wild Archive.
Het proces over de werken van Van Gogh, NRC, April .
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
Valse of echte Van Goghs? Het Volk, April .
Sachverstndigengutachten ber Wackers Bilder, Frankfurter Zeitung, April .
(v.B.), Valsche Van Goghs, De Amstelbode, April . De zaak van de valsche
Van Goghs: Welke waarde heeft deskundigheid berhaupt eigenlijk nog? vraagt de
verdediger, De Maasbode, April .
According to De Wild, Rosenhagen said the following were fakes: F , F , F
bis, F bis, F , F bis, bis. See A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No
date () p. .


A Real Van Gogh.indd 316 29-5-2010 15:24:05

Het proces over de werken van Van Gogh te Berlijn, NRC, April .
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh proces. No date () p. . Underlining in the original.
RKD, De Wild Archive. Also see note .
According to De Wilds notes, he mentioned a ninth: Het maaiertje the little reaper.
Also see note . A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh process,, pp. -. RKD, De Wild
Justis Gutachten, Berliner Tageblatt, April . Geheimrat Justy (sic) erklrt zu
den Van Gogh-Bildern: So falsch wie nur mglich, Berliner Brsen-Courier, April
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh process, p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
According to De la Faille (, ), the following sixteen Wacker Van Goghs were as-
sembled in the Nationalgalerie in February : F , F , F , F , F , F
, F , F , F , F bis, F , F , F , F , F and The Reaper
(Champ de bl avec le faucheur). Also see: L. Justi, Van Gogh, die Kenner und Schrift-
steller, Vossische Zeitung, January .
The approximately six paintings mentioned by the Berliner Brsen-Courier of April
were probably F , F , F , F bis, F and F . Justis assessment of Two
Poplars (F ) is unclear.
Hat Van Gogh sich selbst kopiert? Acht Uhr Abendblatt, April .
De zaak van de valsche Van Goghs, De Maasbode, April .
Vingerafdrukken op de Van Goghs, De Telegraaf, Thursday, April .
Van Gogh vervalsingen: Het proces Wacker, De Telegraaf, April .
(=De Wild) In en om het proces Van Gogh, Het Vaderland, Saturday, April .
Announcement by W. Froentjes, May .
A.M. de Wild, Het Van Gogh process, p. . RKD, De Wild Archive.
Sensation im Wackerproze, Berliner Brsen-Courier, April .
Het proces over de werken van Van Gogh te Berlijn, NRC, April .
De valsche Van Goghs, De Maasbode, April .
Vingerafdrukken op de Van Goghs, De Telegraaf, April .
(=De Wild), In en om het proces van Van Gogh, Het Vaderland, April .
Van-Gogh-Prozess vor dem Ende, Berliner Tageblatt, April .
Wacker-Pldoyers am Sonnabend, Berliner Brsen-Courier, Friday, April .
E. Tubner, Gutachten, no date ( April ), Berlin. pp. ZSM, I/NG , -.
As well as the accompanying letter of E. Tubner to L. Thormaehlen, April .
ZSM, I/NG , .
Das Ende des Van Gogh-Prozesses, Berliner Brsen-Courier, April . Het pro-
ces over de werken van Van Gogh te Berlijn, NRC, April . Also see Koldehoff
, .
Redaktion: Wie beurteilen Juristen Bilderflschungen? Urteilsgrnde der Berufungs-
instanz im Wacker-Proze, Kunst und Knstler, Vol. XXXII, no. III, March , pp.
De zaak van de valsche Van Goghs, De Maasbode, April .
S.J. Mak van Waay and A. Mak van Waay S.J.Zn, May . RKD, Van Gogh Forgeries
Van Gogh-vervalsingen, De Telegraaf, April .
See Mller , -.
Kunst und Wirtschaft. Offizielles Organ des Reichsverbandes bildender Knstler Deutsch-
lands, May , pp. ff.
De Groene Amsterdammer, November .
F was not pictured but was mentioned as a doubtful work. See Scherjon c,
. Four versions of The Reaper F , F , F and the Wacker Van Gogh with-
out an F number are shown. See Scherjon , pp. - .


A Real Van Gogh.indd 317 29-5-2010 15:24:05

Justi , .
W. Jos. de Gruyter, De zaak Van Gogh, Het Vaderland, November .
J. Zwartendijk, Boekaankondiging. W. Scherjon: Catalogue des Tableaux par Vincent
van Gogh dcrits dans ses lettres, NRC, November .
Demasqu: Een schotschrift van Geheimrat Justi, Algemeen Handelsblad, Novem-
ber .
Walram , .
Ibid., .
Kasper Hauser, Expertise, Die Weltbhne, April , no. , p. .
Was wird aus den falschen Van Goghs? Die Kunstauktion, April .
Verhoren in het proces Wacker, Het Algemeen Handelsblad, November .
Andr Warnod, Un nouveau scandale, Le truquage des toiles pratiqu Amsterdam est
pure escroquerie, Comoedia, November .
De valsche schilderijen, De Telegraaf, November .
Een nieuwe zaak van verdachte schilderijen, De Maasbode, November . Wie
is Chanterou? De Maasbode, November . De verdachte schilderijen uit de vei-
ling-Mak, De Maasbode, November . De Chanterou-affaire, De Maasbode,
November . De zaak van de valsche schilderijen, De Maasbode, November
. De Amsterdamsche schilderijen-affaire, De Maasbode, November .
De veiling van Franse schilderijen, Het Algemeen Handelsblad, January .
Chanterou- mysterie, De Telegraaf, November .
Onze naam op kunstgebied in gevaar? Het Volk, November .
Na onze veilings-enqute, De Telegraaf, January .
The Friends society was dissolved in , never having realized its goal to enrich the
collection of the Stedelijk Museum with donated works by Vincent van Gogh. For the
Chanterou case, also see G. de Mir, Faux tableaux, Art Vivant, January , p. .

Chapter 6
A. Plasschaert, De gehavenden van het Van Gogh-proces, De Groene Amsterdammer,
April .
Roepers , .
Koldehoff , .
KMM, Map Boekposten KMS // Managed by G.J. van de Berg.
Balk , -.
Bremmer-Beekhuis n.d., , . Annotation M. Straasheijm p. .
The restorer C.B. van Bohemen calls Bremmers appeal to feelings in the question of
authenticity misleading, but he does not deal with other aspects of his performance in
the Wacker case. C.B. van Bohemen, Het Wacker-proces in Berlijn of een harlequin-
ade op groote schaal, De Tooneelspiegel, May , -.
Vincent van Gogh. De graven te Auvers: Herinnering aan het vervalschingsproces, De
Tijd, July . Eight years after the trial, De Tijd was the first newspaper to write
that Bremmer judged nine Wacker Van Goghs as genuine, seventeen as absolute forger-
ies, and the rest as doubtful.
In een valsch paradijs van de Haagsche School, De Telegraaf, December . See
the documents on the case in the archives of the Krller-Mller Museum: HA ,
HA and HA .
Letter of A. Anthack to the Nationalgalerie, March . Justi followed the transac-
tion like a hawk. He wrote to a colleague that Matthiesen had succeeded in selling the
painting [...] an den merkwrdigen hollndischen Sachverstndigen Scherjon [...].


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Herr Scherjon hat es verstanden, zwei der Wackerstcke, die er zu verschiedene Zeiten,
jedenfalls nach Bekanntwerden der Verdchte erworben hat, an Frau Krller-Mller zu
verkaufen. Copy of a letter from L. Justi to Dr. Koetschau, Augustus . There is
no sales receipt in the archives of the Krller-Mller Museum, however. The purchase
was intended for -, but it never took place because the Krllers could no
longer afford to purchase art after .
Exportvaluta-Erklrung. Signed by I.A. Perlwitz (Nationalgalerie), March .
ZMB, I/NG , .
W.J. de Gruyter, Twee z.g. valsche Van Goghs: In particulier bezit en bij Huinck en
Scherjon te Amsterdam, Het Vaderland, June . An abridged version: Vincent
van Gogh: Twee z.g. valsche schilderijen, NRC, June .
W. J. de Gruyter, Twee z.g. valsche Van Goghs: In particulier bezit en bij Huinck en
Scherjon te Amsterdam, Het Vaderland, June .
Balk , .
Marquis , -.
Scherjon & De Gruyter : F , p. ; F bis, p. ; The Reaper (FF ), p.
; F , p. ; F , p. ; F , p. ; F , p. ; F , p. .
Scherjon & De Gruyter , .
Two other paintings for which Scherjon and De Gruyter provided stylistic analysis are
(F ) Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe and the Wacker Van Gogh Cypresses (F
), but this was to emphasize their authenticity.
Scherjon & De Gruyter , .
The catalogue was printed in March . The first review known to me is Baart de
la Failles Van Goghcatalogus: Geheel herziene en verbeterde druk, De Telegraaf, July
Ibid., .
Ibid., .
Ibid., .
Cited in Balk , .
W.J. de Gruyter, Een tentoonstelling van drie generaties: Jan Toorop, Charley Toorop,
Edgar Fernhout bij Nieuwenhuizen Segaar, Het Vaderland, April .
W.J. de Gruyter, De tentoonstelling de drie generaties: De invloed van Bremmer, Het
Vaderland, April .
Jan Engelman, De Gruyter contra Bremmer, De Groene Amsterdammer, June .
For this affair, see Vink and Balk , -.
H.P. Bremmer, Afbeelding , Visschersbooten, bij St. Maries, Beeldende Kunst,
March , pp. -.
Balk , -.
Bremmer Archives, no. . GAD.
Letters from De la Faille to Scherjon dated May , and September . Let-
ter from Scherjon to De la Faille, September . VGM.
One document file is in the archives of the RKD in The Hague, the second is in the
archives of the VGM.
Auping , . The catalogue was a revised edition of the Krller-Mller Museums
pre-war Van Gogh catalogue, also issued by Auping.
Catalogus [...] , -.
Van Dantzig , -.
Catalogus van werken [...] , .
Ten Berge b, .
Letter of S. van Deventer to J.M. Joosten, March . KMM.


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Chapter 7
Advertisement for Simon & Schuster, New York Times, June . See also Craven
, -. Illustration of F between p. and .
Walker , (original italics).
Simpson , -.
Walker , -.
Dales Dilemma, Time, December .
E.A. Jewell, New Art Display by Chester Dale, New York Times, April .
The documentation regarding F compiled by Chester Dale includes all the lit-
erature in favor of the pictures authenticity, while all the publications calling it into
question are excluded, including De la Failles Les faux Van Gogh. (AAA, Chester Dale
Papers, reel )
Letter from V.W. van Gogh to the director of the National Gallery of Art, March
. NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of Van Gogh, .. (); Memo-
randum for the files, J. Walker, April . NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of Van
Gogh, .. (); Letter from V.W. van Gogh to J. Walker, April ;
Memorandum, E. Ferber, October . NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of Van
Gogh, .. (); letter from V.W. van Gogh to C. Parkhurst, October
. VGM, b/.
Letter from J. Walker to D. Finley, June . NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of
Van Gogh, .. (). In , around a year after the discussion with De
Wild, Walker wrote that the restorer must have examined the painting shortly after the
Wacker trial. As evidenced in Chapter , however, the examination had actually already
taken place, in June . See: Aide Memoir in re Chester Dale Van Gogh Self-Portrait,
J. Walker, May . NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of Van Gogh, ..
Aide Memoir in re Chester Dale Van Gogh Self-Portrait, J. Walker, May
and Memorandum, J. Walker, October . Memorandum from J. Walker to D.
Finley, October . NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of Van Gogh, ..
J. Rewald, Report on the Van Gogh Self-portrait from the Chester Dale Collection, Sep-
tember , . NGAW: Curatorial files. Imitator of Van Gogh, .. ().
Bromic-Kollerantz von Novisancz , , and -, and F. Erpel , -.
Letter from J. Walker to S. Segui, April . NGAW, .. (), Vincent
van Gogh. Self-Portrait, Chester Dale Collection.
Transcript of a letter from D.E. Rust to P. Nimcheck, April . NGAW ..
(), Vincent van Gogh. Self-Portrait, Chester Dale Collection.
Keisch .
NGAW, Oral history program. Interview with John Walker. Interview -. Con-
ducted by Anne G. Ritchie. October . Amberley, England. See also Walker
, - and -.
Letter from J. Kennedy to J. Walker, n.d. []. NGAW.

Chapter 8
LEnigme Van Gogh, Connaissance des Arts, April , p. .
For the Van Meegeren case, see: Van den Brandhof , Van Wijnen and Van
Wijnen .
See Van Wijnen , and Secrest , -.
Van Wijnen , .
Strijd tegen valse Van Goghs, Algemeen Handelsblad, May .


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For W.A. Bonger, see Van Heerikhuizen .
Conversation with J. van Gogh, dated April .
See V.W. van Gogh , vi.
V.W. van Gogh, Iets over de museums en hun betekenis, De Socialistische Gids:
Maandschrift der Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij, February , pp. -.
For V.W. van Gogh as organizational advisor, see Hellema & Marsman .
See Stolwijk & Veenenbos , .
Cf. Stolwijk & Veenenbos , . They estimate that between and at least
works from the collection were sold or given away by the Engineer. The exact ratio of
sales to gifts is unknown. Most of these works were drawings and they were most likely
given away.
Conversation with J. van Gogh, dated April .
On Sandberg, see Petersen & Brattinga and Roodenburg-Schadd .
J.B. de la Faille, Een merkwaardig zelfportret van Vincent van Gogh, Phoenix, maand-
schrift voor beeldende kunst, September , .
Vincent by candlelight, Time, February .
New Van Gogh find owned in America, New York Times, February .
Ir. van Gogh over schilderijenvervalsingen: Klacht van Jhr. Sandberg kan preventief
werken, Het Parool, May, .
Jhr. Sandberg dient klacht in over valse Van Goghs, Het Parool, May .
Letter of W. Sandberg to B. Kist, January . SMA, letter no. .
Ir. van Gogh over schilderijenvervalsingen: Klacht van Jhr. Sandberg kan preventief
werken, Het Parool, May .
On May in Goudse Courant, Maas- en Roerbode en De Stem.
Fake Van Goghs flood the market, Daily Telegraph, May .
Letter of Van Dantzig to H.L.C. Jaff, December . CDA.
Valse van Goghs, Overijsselse en Zwolse Courant, July .
Rumoer over Van Gogh-vervalsingen, De Tijd, May .
Copy of telegram from A.M. Grant to B. Kist, June . SMA, ...
Letter of D.K.G. de Jong to the Mayor of Amsterdam, dated June . SMA,
Letter of Sandberg to the mayor and aldermen, dated November . SMA, letter
no. .
Schrijver Irving Stone verklaart: Van Goghs Zelfportret bij Kaarslicht is authentiek,
Het Vrije Volk, July .
Leeuw Marcar , .
Stedelijke Arena, Elseviers Weekblad, November .
Letter of H.J. Reinink to W. Cnoop Koopmans, July . BZ, .
Letter of J.P. Bourdrez to W. Sandberg, June . SMA, Incoming mail, June
, letter no. .
Letter of T.J.H. Gusten to W. Sandberg, July . BZ, .
Letter of H.J. Reinink to W. Cnoop Koopmans, July , BZ, .
Telegram of F.H. Taylor to V.W. van Gogh, August , VGM, bV/-.
Conversation with A.M. Hammacher, dated October .
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to A.M. Hammacher, January . VGM, Correspond-
ence of A.M. Hammacher.
Suspected Van Gogh studied by experts, New York Times, October .
According to Hammachers biographer, P. de Ruiter, the painting was exhibited (De
Ruiter , ). But both the American catalogue (Van Gogh Painting and drawings
-), where the painting is not mentioned nor the owner thanked, and press
reports of the exhibitions in New York and Chicago rule out such a possibility.
Barr et al. , .


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W.J. de Gruyter, Echte of valse Van Gogh? Enig scepticisme gewettigd, De Nieuwe
Courant, October .
Other catalogues, such as those by Scherjon & De Gruyter (), concerned only
certain periods from the life of Van Gogh and relied heavily on De la Faille.
Valse Van Gogh is vals, zeggen Amerikaanse experts, De Volkskrant, December .
One exception was Art Digest, December , which provided arguments for and
against the painting and said the results of the Metropolitan commissions investigation
were not decisive.
L. Dyons, The Lyons den, New York Post, December .
Commissies in Amerika zijn het oneens over Van Gogh, Het Parool, November
Letter of D. Serton to V.W. van Gogh, December . VGM.
Dr. Baert handhaaft echtheid van Van Goghs Studie bij kaarslicht, Algemeen Dag-
blad, December .
J.B. de la Faille, Een nieuw licht op Studie bij kaarslicht, Elsevier, November .
Goetzs , Van Gogh ruled genuine in U.S. customs inquiry, New York Herald
Tribune, October .
The Van Gogh Mystery, New York Times, November .
Letter from the art editors of Het Vrije Volk to the directors of the Stedelijk Museum,
February , SMA, Incoming mail, February , letter .
Van Dantzig , -, -. Compare the comments by Phillips , -.
De la Faille was referring to W , now dated as Arles, and September .
De la Faille , . RKD, Box -, .
Letter of Prof. E.A. Nieuwenhoven Helbach to Mr. Van Hasselt, May . RKD,
Box -, . Letter of L.A.E. Baert de la Faille-Fransen van de Putte to A.M.
Hammacher, August . VGM, Correspondence of A.M. Hammacher.
An exception is Denvir (, -), who writes that experts are in disagreement as to
its authenticity.
See Keyes et al. .
Petersen & Brattinga , .

Chapter 9
See Oosterbaan Martinius , -.
Alexander , -; Savage , - and von Bode , -.
Die falschen Van Gogh-Bilder, Kunst und Knstler, March , p. . According to
the reviewer this sentence comes from Les Faux Van Gogh, but it cannot be found there.
Op de Coul .
See Wouters .
Van den Brandhof , .
Copy of letter from Sandberg to the mayor and aldermen of Amsterdam, June .
SMA, Correspondence of (no. ).
Copy of letter from Sandberg to the mayor and alderman of Amsterdam, July .
SMA, .. EI (no. ).
Copy of letter from A.J. dAilly to the Minister of Education, Arts, and Science,
August . SMA, .. EI.
Copy of letter from the Minister of Education, Arts, and Science to the mayor and
alderman of Amsterdam, September . SMA, .. EI (no. II).
Letter of M. de Sablonire to W. Sandberg, January . SMA, .. EI.
Letter of M. de Sablonire to V.W. van Gogh, April . VGM. I think it would
be unfortunate for it to fall into the hands of art historians, i.e. into the hands of one of
the museum directors, who have opposed an institute en bloc when they became afraid


A Real Van Gogh.indd 322 29-5-2010 15:24:05

that people whom they were in the habit of approaching for donations would not ap-
prove. (Underlining in the original)
M. de Sablonire, Over echte en valse Van Goghs, Vrij Nederland, December
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to H.L.C. Jaff, April . SMA, .. EI.
Annual report of the Expertise Institute -, June . SMA, .. EI.
Estimate made after comparing documents from and about the Expertise Institute in
the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), the Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam, and the Van Gogh Museum. The number of requests for assessment, the
actual assessments carried out, the number and identity of the experts per assessment,
etc., could not be precisely determined from the documents in these archives.
Letter of M. de Sablonire to H.L.C. Jaff, December . SMA, .. EI.
During the Frans Hals exhibition held in Haarlem in , of the paintings clas-
sified as forgeries by Van Dantzig were dismissed. See Van Dantzig and , x.
According to information received by telephone from J. Storm van Leeuwen. Van Dan-
tzigs wife had a different reading; see Van Dantzig , xii. Also see the criticism by
Van Wijnen , -.
On Van Dantzig, see Van Dantzig , xi-xii, Storm van Leeuwen . Additional
oral information from D.A. van Dantzig. For a criticism of pictology, see Phillips ,
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to M.E. Tralbaut, February . VGM. (Underlining in the
Letter of W. Sandberg to M. de Sablonire, July . VGM.
Onechte Van Gogh op expositie in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Het Vrije Volk,
August .
Eeuwfeest Vincent van Gogh zomer [], no. . Compare the Engineers annota-
tion for the same painting on page in his copy of De la Failles Van Gogh Catalogue
of . To the right of the photo: fake, and at the bottom of the page: Not a Van
Gogh painting. Why should this be regarded as one? VGM.
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to M.E. Tralbaut, August . VGM, bV/. (Un-
derlining in the original) Compare V.W. van Gogh to Wijsenbeek, March .
VGM, b V/-: Of course I have no objection to painting F , which has
got you so bogged down.
Letter of Altarriba to Van Dantzig, May . CDA.
Copy of letter of Van Dantzig to Altarriba, June . CDA.
Letter of Altarriba to Van Dantzig, November . CDA.
Copy of letter of Van Dantzig to Altarriba, December . CDA.
Copy of letter of Van Dantzig to Altarriba, November . CDA.
Letter of M.M. van Dantzig to the board of the Expertise Institute, December .
See Van Dantzig .
Duel ontbrand in Frans tijdschrift: Is het Koollaantje een echte Van Gogh? Het Vrije
Volk, December .
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to the board of the Expertise Institute, March . SMA,
.. EI.
Report of A. Petersen Brioche et Fleur, September . SMA, .. EI.
Letter of W. Sandberg to the Ambassador of Sweden, March . SMA, .. EI.
Report of August , J.L.C. Jaff to the Expertise Institute, SMA, .. EI.
Letter of A. van Schendel to J.L.C. Jaff, August . SMA, Jaff, private.
Letter of A.M. Hammacher to the Expertise Institute, October . SMA, ..


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Letter of the Expertise Institute to J.L.C. Jaff, January . SMA, .. EI.
L:etter of A. Loeb to the Expertise Institute, February . GL.
Letter of M. de Sablonire to the board of the Expertise Institute, February .
Letter of M. de Sablonire to the board of the Expertise Institute, February .
SMA, .. EI.
Letter of M. de Sablonire to E. de Wilde, February . (Underlining in the origi-
nal) SM, .. EI.
Letter of J. Slagter to the board of the Expertise Institute, February . SMA,
.. EI.
Letter of J. Slagter to the board of the Expertise Institute, March . SMA, ..
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to the board of the Expertise Institute, March . SMA,
.. EI.
Letter of J. Slagter to the board of the Expertise Institute, April . SMA, ..
Expertise Instituut Jaarverslag /, July . SMA, .. EI.
Many years later, when the Stedelijk Museum was asked if and when the Institute had
been discontinued, it used the date the Institute closed its bank account for the sake of
convenience. It did not know whether or when the Institute had formally been termi-
Copy of letter of V.W. van Gogh to O. Sirianen, June . VGM, Correspondence
of V.W. van Gogh, EI.
Cf. Rewald , , and Jaff, Storm van Leeuwen & Van der Tweel .

Chapter 10
See Mauss . Also see the essays in Komter (ed.) and .
Letter of J. van Gogh-Bonger to J.B. de la Faille, August . VGM.
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to M.E. Tralbaut, September . VGM, Tralbaut cor-
respondence and Notes on Paul Gachet, February . VGM, Memoranda of Engi-
neer Van Gogh, -.
Gachet Junior attended agricultural college, but this biographical detail is not men-
tioned in any newspaper article or catalogue from the s or s.
This support was financed by the Theo van Gogh Foundation, which purchases works
by living artists and already has a number of pieces that can be found in various mu-
seums, letter of V.W. van Gogh to the mayor and alderman of Breda, September
. VGM, Correspondence of M.E. Tralbaut and V.W. van Gogh. In the annual
report of the Theo van Gogh Foundation, eleven drawings and paintings are listed in
the foundations holdings, including works by Ger Lataster, Jan Voerman, Jr., Graham
Sutherland, Paul Citroen, and Henry Moore. VGM, Memoranda of V.W. van Gogh, no
date. On the Engineer and the Museumjournaal, see Schumacher .
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to P. Gachet, May . VGM.
De la Faille says the first exhibition of The Church at Auvers (F ) was The
Hague, Otterlo. According to De Waarheid of February , the painting was first
shown at Jeu de Paume in Paris in February .
For the history of the donations, see Distel & Stein .
Van Gogh Tentoonstelling te Parijs, De Waarheid, February .
W.J. de Gruyter, Schenking Gachet aan het Louvre, Het Vaderland, February .
Vier nieuwe aanwinsten voor het Louvre, De Telegraaf, November .
See letter of V.W. van Gogh to P. Gachet, April . VGM.
Letter of P. Gachet to V.W. van Gogh, April . VGM.


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Museum kreeg Van Gogh cadeau, De Volkskrant, June .
The Algemeen Dagblad wrote that it was a gift of Dr. Paul Gachet, who as a -year-
old boy nursed Vincent van Gogh during the last two days of his life. The Stedelijk
Museum, Algemeen Dagblad, June . The tendency to present Gachet Junior as
the physician is understandable, since he used his fathers stationery for correspondence
until he reached an advanced age. The editors of Arts printed a correction from Gachet
fils that was signed Doctor Gachet, probably also a result of his habit of using his
fathers stationery. The comment that Gachet fils nursed Vincent was a fabrication of
his own making, however.
Hendriks & Van Tilborgh , .
Letter of J.C. Traas to V.W. van Gogh, August . VGM, bV/.
For the attempts made by the Engineer to win experts over to his side, see Hendriks &
Van Tilborgh , -.
Letter of H.R. Graetz to W. Sandberg, August . Telegram of H.R. Graetz to W.
Sandberg, August . SMA, Van Gogh Algemeen.
Memorandum (no date). VGM, Memoranda of V.W. Van Gogh, -.
Memorandum, Bezoek bij Tralbaut in Antwerpen, V.W. van Gogh, August .
VGM, Memoranda of V.W. Van Gogh, -.
Memorandum, December . VGM, Memoranda of V.W. Van Gogh, -.
Personal note concerning the new Baert de la Faille catalogue on Vincent van Gogh,
March . VGM, Memorandum of V.W. Van Gogh, -.
Memorandum, Bezoek bij Tralbaut in Antwerpen, V.W. van Gogh, August .
VGM, Memoranda of V.W. Van Gogh, -.
Tralbaut b, .
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to M.E. Tralbaut, December . (Underlining in the
original) VGM, b V/.
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to A.M. Hammacher, January . VGM, Hammacher
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to A.M. Hammacher, January . VGM, Hammacher
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to A.M. Hammacher, (no date) . VGM, Hammacher
Letter of A.M. Hammacher to V.W. Van Gogh, (no date) . VGM.
De la Faille , .
De la Faille , -.
The Dutch state also paid . million guilders to cover the inheritance tax that would
be levied on the total amount and gave a million guilders to the foundation as operating
See J. van Gogh .
Conversation with J. van der Wolk, July .
See Landais , Distel & Stein and Hendriks & Van Tilborgh .

Chapter 11
Letter of Librex N.V. to W. Sandberg, October . Letter of Sandberg to Librex
N.V., November . SMA, Box .., Van Gogh General.
Prospectus Martinus Nijhoff . VGM.
In her name was A. Hoogendoorn. In this chapter I am using her married name.
See Roodenburg-Schadd .
Conversation with A. Tellegen, dated October .
Conversation with J.M. Joosten, dated March .


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Conversation with A.M. Hammacher, dated October .
Van Gogh Symposion met belangrijk initiatief gesloten: Plannen voor Van Gogh-
seminarie, Algemeen Handelsblad, March .
M.E. Tralbaut, In de schaduw van de raven: Spel in vier bedrijven. Manuscript, pp.
No place or date of publication. [], -. VGM library, TS.
Letter of N. van Gogh-Van der Goot to M.E. Tralbaut, December ; letter of
M.E. Tralbaut to N. van Gogh-Van der Goot, December ; and letter of V.W.
van Gogh to M.E. Tralbaut, December . VGM.
M.E. Tralbaut, Verantwoording van de auteur, Koninklijke Nederlandse Schouw-
burg/Nationaal Toneel van Belgi, -, th performance year, program no. .
In de schaduw van de raven. [No place or date of publication], pp. -.
Tralbaut assessment, January . SMA, .. Expertise Institute.
Letter of V.W. van Gogh to M.E. Tralbaut, (no date) , VGM.
Letter of J.B. de la Faille to M.E. Tralbaut, June , VGM.
Conversation with A.M. Hammacher, dated October .
Hammacher , .
On Hammacher, see De Ruiter .
On Van Gelder, see Stolwijk .
Conversation with E. van Uitert, April .
His first articles on the subject were published in Maatstaf in , , and .
Minutes of the editorial committee, August , RKD, -, .
Minutes of the editorial committee, March . RKD, -, .
Telephone conversation with E.L. de Wilde, September .
Van Gelder , .
Press release of the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences, December .
RKD, -, . Letter of Y. Scholten to M.E. Tralbaut, December .
Minutes of the editorial committee, August . RKD, -, .
Minutes of the editorial committee, September . RKD, -, .
Minutes of the editorial committee, September . RKD, -, .
Letter of J. Hulsker to H. Gerson and A. Hammacher, March . RKD, -
, .
Conversation with J.M. Joosten, March .
Letter of A. Hoogendoorn to A.M. Hammacher, August . RKD, De la Faille
Archives, File F .
Minutes of the editorial committee, November . RKD, -, .
Letter of W. Froentjes to H. Gerson, December . RKD, De la Faille Archives,
File F .
Letter of H. Gerson to the editorial committee, February . RKD, De la Faille
Archives, File F . The text in the catalogue does not say whether or not the copy is
a fake (De la Faille , ). The present owner of the copy is unknown.
Job description of A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn. RKD, -, .
Minutes of the editorial committee, (no date) . RKD, -, .
Letter of H. Gerson to the editorial committee, . RKD, -, .
Letter of J.G. van Gelder to H. Gerson, June . RKD, -, .
Letter of A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn and J.M. Joosten to F.P.T. Roling (Ministry of
Education, Arts, and Sciences), July . RKD, -, .
Letter of H. Gerson to the editorial committee, July . RKD, -, .
Letter of J.G. van Gelder to H. Gerson, July . RKD, -, .
Letter of the editorial committee to A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn, March . RKD,
-, .


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Conversation with A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn, September .
De la Faille , .
Memoire prsent Messieurs les Membres du Comit de lExpertise Institut, Paris,
no date. Author P. Crochet-Damais. GL.
Letter of H.L.C. Jaff to A. Loeb. GL.
Letter of M.E. Tralbaut to A. Loeb, October . GL.
Ibid. In when the editorial committee asked Tralbaut if the painting was the
property of A. Loeb, Tralbaut categorically denied it. He said it was the property of
someone who would like to remain completely anonymous because his painting left
the country without the necessary formalities having been observed. Tralbaut could
say nothing about the owner: For the time being I am bound by my professional
confidentiality. He did say that any potential buyers could report to Loeb, who was
acting as the agent. Letter of M.E. Tralbaut to S.J. Gudlaugsson, April . RKD,
-, .
Respectively, letters of A. van Schendel to M.E. Tralbaut, November . GL. Let-
ter of S. Nystad to M.E. Tralbaut, November . GL. Letter of V.W. van Gogh to
M.E. Tralbaut, November . VGM.
Copy of a letter from J.G. van Gelder to M.E. Tralbaut, December . VGM,
Correspondence of A.M. Hammacher.
In endnote Tralbaut wrote, When we showed Rcolte de bl dans la plaine des Alpilles
to our friend, Doctor-Engineer V.W. van Gogh, he immediately declared it is a paint-
ing of the Arles period! He was not mistaken. Tralbaut , .
Tralbaut , .
See Tralbaut , , , and .
Preface by the nephew of Vincent van Gogh, Tralbaut , .
Letter of M.E. Tralbaut to B.F. Anthon, September . VGM. Engineer Van Gogh
did not respond to Tralbauts rhetorical question in writing as far as I can tell, and it is
not known whether they discussed it between themselves. An indication of the Engi-
neers views can be seen in the marginal comment Angrand written in his handwriting
beside the entry on Les environs de Paris on p. of his copy of Tralbauts Van Gogh,
le mal aim. (VGM library, BV, ) It is not known when this comment was made,
however, or whether it was his final opinion.
Copy of letter from S.J. Gudlaugsson to M.E. Tralbaut, April . RKD, -
. .
Minutes of the editorial committee, (no date) . RKD, -, .
Letter of S. Gudlaugsson to M.E. Tralbaut, January . RKD, -. .
Letter of M.E. Tralbaut to S. Gudlaugsson, January . RKD, -. .
Letter of J.G. van Gelder to A.M. Hammacher, February . VGM.
Letter of M.E. Tralbaut to B.F. Anthon, September . VGM.
Conversation with B. Welsh-Ovcharov, March .
The catalogue is based on the revised De la Faille. It is not a fully documented cata-
logue, however, because it does not include the works provenance, owners, exhibition
history, or literary references.
Statement of A.M. Hammacher and E. Joosten, Brussels/Amsterdam, November .
pp. GL.
For Jaff: letter of the RKD; letter of M.M. Op de Coul to G. Bernheim, November
and letter of M.M. Op de Coul to A. Loeb, January , respectively. GL.
Welsh-Ovcharov , .
Transaction entre les hoirs Loeb et O. Chevrillon, (no date) February . GL.
Letter of C. Korman to G. Girard-Loeb, January . GL.
Declaration by De la Faille, October . RKD. Cf. letter of A.M. Hammacher to
R. Hauert, February . VGM, Hammacher correspondence.


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Letter of A. Tooth to A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn, December . Letter of S.J. Gud-
laugsson to A. Tellegen-Hoogendoorn, December . RKD, -, .
Copy of letter from A.M. Hammacher to R. Hauert, February . VGM, Ham-
macher correspondence.
Conversation with A.M. Hammacher, October .
De la Faille , .


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AAA Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in

Washington, D.C.
AF Archives of W. Froentjes in The Hague from the Netherlands
Forensic Institute in The Hague
BF Archives of J. Baart de la Faille from the J. Baart de la Faille Col-
lection in Arnhem
BZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)
DA D.A. van Dantzig Collection in Amsterdam
GAA City Archives of Amsterdam
GAD City Archives of The Hague
GL G. Girard-Loeb Collection in Paris
KA Archives of Kunsthandel d Audretsch from the J. van Es Collec-
tion in Rotterdam
KMM Krller-Mller Museum in Otterloo
NGW National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
OKW Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences (Ministerie van
Onderwijs, Kunsten en Wetenschappen)
RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History (Rijksbureau voor Kun-
sthistorische Documentatie) in The Hague
RKDAW Netherlands Institute for Art History, Archives of A.M. De
RM Rijksmuseum, depot Rijksarchief North-Holland
SM Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
UA Utrecht Archives
VGM Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
ZSM Zentralarchiv Staatliche Museen in Berlijn

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A Real Van Gogh.indd 330 29-5-2010 15:24:05

Aart Klein/Nederlands Fotoarchief;

Algemeen Dagblad, 28 May 1949;
Algemeen Handelsblad, 8 April 1932;
Amsterdam City Archives;
Atlas van Stolk;
Berenson Archive, Harvard College;
Bildarchiv Preuischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin;
Brooklyn Times, 4 June 1926;
Bhrle Collection Zrich;
Chicago Herald Tribune, 1 February 1950;
Christian Gahl;
Citizen News, 8 February 1949;
De Amsterdammer, 25 October 1914;
De Haagsche Post, 16 April 1932;
De Haagsche Post, 8 December 1928;
Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, Bequest-Collection of Maurice
Het Parool, 27 March 1953;
Hiroshima, Japan, Art Museum;
Krller-Mller Museum;
Kunst & Knstler, December 1928;
Kurashiki, Japan, Ohara Museum of Art;
Los Angeles Times, 8 February 1970;
National Gallery of Art in Washington;
Netherlands Institute for Art History;
New York Herald Tribune, 29 October 1949;
Nieuwe Amsterdamsche Courant, 8 April 1932;

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Paris Match;
Private collection D. van Dantzig (now at the Netherlands Institute for Art
History in The Hague);
Private collection J. van Es;
Private collection W. Froentjes (now at the Netherlands Forensic Institute
in The Hague);
Ullstein Bild;
Van Gogh Museum.


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Index of names

A Berenson, B. 17, 192, 193, 195

Berge, J. ten 307, 308, 314, 319, 333
Abdy, Sir R. 102 Berlage, H.P. 115, 117
Ailly, A.J. d 218, 235, 322 Bernard, E. 241
Alexander, E.P. 322 Bernheim-Jeune, art gallery 30, 37, 310,
Alexander, V. 16, 322 313
Alsop, J. 16, 305 Beuningen, D.G. van 205
Altarriba, C. 241-244, 323 Beuningen, W. van 175, 180
Anfray, L. 260 Bicker Caarten-Stigter, M.A., zie Sa-
Angrand, C. 248,290, 295, 296 297, 327 blonire, M.A. de
Angrand, P. 295 Blume, E. 309, 334
Arnau, F. 333 Bcklin, A. 66, 322, 334
Artaud, A. 260 Bode, W. 33, 231, 322, 334
Audretsch, art gallery d 55, 104, 179, 302, Bois, J.H. de 43, 111, 169, 313, 315
308, 313, 329 Bonger, W.A. 208, 211, 321
Aulnis de Bourouill, J. d 306 Botticelli, S. 193, 235
Auping, W. 188, 319, 333 Boudin, E. 235
Avercamp, H. 116 Brandhof, M. van den 311, 320, 322,334
Brattinga, P. 321, 322, 340
B Bredius, A. 31, 204
Breitner, G.H. 187
Baard, C.W.H. 123, 125, 315 Bremmer, H.P. 9, 17, 19, 23, 39-45, 54-56,
Baart de la Faille, J., see Faille, J.B. de la 58, 64-66, 73, 75, 77, 78, 84, 87, 91-93,
Bakker-Hefting, V. 117, 245, 333 95, 98, 99, 101-104, 110, 112, 116-118,
Baldung Grien, H. 116, 188 122, 127 129 131-133, 135-142, 144, 145,
Balk, H. 17, 39-45, 172, 176, 243, 301, 147, 149-151, 153-162, 164-166, 169, 171-
304-308, 310, 311, 318, 319, 333 189, 203, 204, 206, 207, 215-28, 227,
Barr Jr, A.H. 177, 209, 225, 321, 333 232, 237, 238, 273, 306-311, 313, 314,
Bauer, M. 207 316, 318, 319, 333, 334
Becker, C.H. 72 Bridgewater, P. 309, 334
Becker, S. 16, 305, 333 Brittner, K. 135, 155, 156
Beckmann, M. 68 Bromic-Kollerantz von Novisancz, K.
Begemann, N. 314, 333 320, 334

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Bronkhorst, G. 305, 334 179, 180, 187, 188, 189, 308, 313, 314,
Bruin, K. 33, 334 319, 335
Buffa & Zonen, art gallery 48,313 Deyssel, L. van 208
Dirven, R. 308, 335, 344
C Distel, A. 308, 335, 344
Dobbenburg, A. van de 183, 184
Carr, L. 217 Doesburg, Th. Van 116
Cassirer, art gallery Paul 43, 46, 47, 54, Donath 135, 152
57, 60, 62, 63, 75, 109, 136, 137, 139, Dongen, K. van 166
305 Dorn, R. 130, 306, 311, 315, 335
Czanne, P. 37, 60, 79, 100, 214, 256, Druet, E. 13
260, 314 Dubois, G. 167
Chagall, M. 166 Dufy, R. 166
Chanterou, R. 166, 167, 169, 176 Duret, Th. 109, 313
Chirico, G. de 166 Dutuit, E. 33
Churchill, W. 220 Duveen, J. 100, 195, 205, 206
Cohen Gosschalk, J. 207, 337
Colijn, H. 117 E
Cordovado, N. 246
Corot, J-B.C. 235 Ebbink, H. 301, 311, 335
Coul, M. Op de 289, 322, 334 Eckhardt, W. 309, 335
Cranach, L. 116, 188 Eeden, F. van 176, 208
Craven, T. 191, 320, 334 Eekman, N. 215, 216
Eisenloeffel, art gallery N. 43
D Engelman, J. 184, 204, 319
Erpel, F. 320, 335
Daalhoff, H. 41, 173 Eyck, J. van 193
Dale, C. 10, 20, 48, 88-90, 92-95, 97-104,
110, 111, 131, 132, 141, 153, 154, 163, 178, F
179, 191, 192, 196, 199, 201, 202, 256,
302, 311, 313, 318, 320, 336, 343 Fabiani, art gallery 241, 242
Dale, M. 88, 90, 95, 101, 103, 302, 311 Faille, J.B. de la 9, 10, 14, 17, 19, 23, 25-
Dam van Isselt, H. van 120 29, 31-39, 44-51, 54-56, 58, 61-66, 71-
Dantzig, M.M. van 11, 111, 187, 218, 228, 76, 81, 87, 90, 91, 93, 94, 97, 99-103,
233, 238-245, 248, 250, 252, 253, 302, 107-113, 118-133, 135, 136, 139-144, 146,
319, 321-323, 329, 332, 334, 342 147, 151, 152, 157-163, 165-172, 174, 176-
Daubigny, C.F. 92 178, 180-188, 197-200, 203, 204, 206,
Daumier, H. 235 207, 210, 213-216, 218, 219, 225-229,
David, C. 88 237, 240, 241, 244, 251, 257, 260, 262,
Degas, E. 60, 68, 80, 81 263, 266, 268, 273-275, 278-280, 283-
Delarof 32 286, 290, 298, 305-317, 319-329, 335
Denvir, B. 322, 335 Fantin-Latour, H. 92, 187, 237
Derkinderen, A. 116 Fasseur, C. 314, 336
Deventer, S. van 101, 104, 117, 132, 175, Faure, E. 112, 314, 335

index of names

A Real Van Gogh.indd 346 29-5-2010 15:24:06

Feilchenfeldt, W. 46, 63, 109, 135, 139 242, 245-247, 251, 255-262, 264, 266,
Feilchenfeldt jr., W. 30, 102, 301, 305, 268,-271, 273-277, 280-283, 285, 287,
306, 307, 309, 311, 315, 316, 335, 336 289, 291-295, 297, 303, 305, 306
Feltkamp, W.C. 227 Gogh-Bonger, J. Van 35, 43, 45, 46, 109,
Finley, D.E. 194, 198, 199, 200, 336 138, 146, 198, 199, 207, 232, 257, 262,
Francesca, P. della 89 324
Froentjes, W. 86, 95, 96, 248, 287, 301, Goldschmidt, I. 66, 141
311, 313, 317, 326, 329, 336 Goldschmidt, art gallery M. 58, 140
Gring, H. 177, 188, 204
G Goudstikker, J. 169
Goyen, J. van 116
Gabril, P. 116 Graadt van Roggen, W. 306
Gachet pre, P. 11, 81, 212, 256-260, 303, Gradkowsky, J. 135, 140
306, 325 Graetz, H. 263, 264
Gachet fils, P. 11, 212, 214, 225, 228, 256, Greco, El 88
260, 262-271, 283, 303, 324, 325, 336 Grosz, G. 68
Gachet, M. 256, 259 Gruyter, W.Jos. de 11, 39, 92, 94, 97, 101,
Garnier, J.C.M. 122, 123, 133, 135, 140, 112, 122, 127, 151, 163, 169, 175-181,
152, 164, 314 183-187, 199, 226, 260, 281-283, 286,
Gauguin, P. 13, 15, 37, 123, 314 337, 342
Gelder, J.G. van 292, 294, 326, 336 Guillaumin, A. 126, 260
Grard, J. 13-15, 24, 305 Gutmann 140, 141
Gerson, H. 275, 279, 281, 282, 286, 288,
289 H
Goetz, W. 11, 214, 216, 218-20, 222-229,
242, 273 Haak, A.C. 337
Gogh, Engineer V.W. van 9, 17, 19, 35, 36, Haffner, S. 337
45, 46, 48, 51, 63, 108, 109, 119, 120, Hahnloser, A. 119, 241
124, 126, 127, 129, 132, 137, 138, 146, Hals, F. 34, 83, 85, 111, 208, 234, 238, 239,
161, 164, 177, 203, 207-220, 222-225, 323, 336
228, 229, 231-236, 240-243, 245, 246, Hammacher, A.M. 9, 17, 19, 23, 39, 151, 188,
249-253, 256-271, 275-278, 283, 291-294, 203, 204, 212, 223, 224, 237, 243-248,
299, 302, 307, 321, 323, 324, 325, 327 266-270, 276, 278-284, 286, 286, 291,
Gogh, J. van 208, 211 292, 295, 296, 298, 299, 301, 306, 337
Gogh, T. van 25, 35, 119, 198, 207, 209, Hannema, D. 204
212, 233, 257, 264, 277, 281 Hauert, R. 297, 298
Gogh, V.W. van 7, 9-18, 20, 24, 25, 29, 30, Hauser, K. 165
35-39, 41, 42, 44-46, 48-50, 54, 55, 57, Havelaar, J. 39, 94, 151
59, 61, 62, 65, 73, 75, 79, 82, 90, 93-97, Heerikhuizen, B. van 337
102, 108-110, 112, 116, 118, 120, 122-128, Hefting, V. see V. Bakker-Hefting
130, 131, 134, 138, 145, 147, 151, 153, 162, Heinich, N. 305, 337
164, 166, 169, 176, 178, 181, 187, 188, Hellema, H.J.P. 337
198, 199, 202, 206-209, 211-217, 223, Hem, P. van der 50, 142, 174
225, 227-229, 232-234, 236, 237, 239- Hendriks, E. 263, 337

index of names

A Real Van Gogh.indd 347 29-5-2010 15:24:06

Hentzen, A. 315, 337, 338 Knuttel Wzn, G. 126,127, 204, 338
Hettinga Tromp, T. 41 Kbben, A.J.F. 14, 304, 338
Heydt, E. von der 82 Kdera, T. 301, 305, 338
Hijmans, E. 209 Koldehoff, S. 30, 102, 301, 339
Hilhorst, C. 337 Komter, A. 339
Hindenburg, P. Von 114, 162 Knig, L. von 135, 154
Hitler, A. 162, 176, 220 Kooten, T. van 339
Hofman, P.B. 337 Kramarsky, S. 260
Hofstede de Groot, C. 31, 33, 38, 85, 311, Kress, S. 194, 195
337 Kreuzfeld, J. 135, 140
Hoogh, P. De 86, 204 Krimsky, S. 339
Huinck & Scherjon, art gallery 104, 122, 123, Krockow, C. Von 339
143, 169, 175, 178, 180, 185-187, 226 Krller, A.G. 9, 10, 35, 14, 43, 45, 92, 113-
Huinck, C.W. 92, 226, 227 118, 120, 172, 173
Hulsker, J. 279, 281, 282, 295-297, 299, Krller-Mller, H. 9, 10, 35, 41, 43, 55, 56,
301 65, 70-72, 74-77, 92, 98, 101-104, 108,
109, 113-125, 131-133, 138, 141, 151, 152,
J 169, 172, 173, 175-177, 187

Jaff, H.L.C. 11, 215, 218, 233, 237, 238, L

243-248, 264, 291, 292, 296, 338
Jankowsky, Th. 135, 140 Landais, B. 297, 303, 306, 339
Jeppson, L. 338. Latour, J. 263, 264, 267
Jongkind, P. 123, 187 Leck, B. van der 41, 92, 116
Joosten, E. 282, 295, 301 Leeuw Marcar, A. 339
Joosten, J. 275, 285, 287, 288 Leeuw, A. van der 282
Joux, L. 167, 168 Leune, J.M.G. 23, 339
Justi, L. 10, 59, 67-77, 79-83, 93, 103, 120, Lewenthal, R. 214, 219
132-136, 143-146, 149-152, 154, 156-158, Liebermann, M. 68, 69, 82, 134, 138, 148
160-164, 175, 179, 181, 184, 185, 195, Lindeman, C.M.A.A. 205
283, 309, 338 Lippi, Fra Filippo 89
Loeb, A. 246-248, 290, 292, 294-296,
K 302
Loval, O., see Otto Wacker
Karnebeek, H.A. van 114 Ludendorff, E. von 114
Keck, S. 225 Lugt, F. 111
Kennedy, J. 201
Keyes, G.S. 338 M
Kirchner, E.L. 68
Kisling, M. 166 Macke, E. 68, 83
Kist, B. 207, 216 Mak van Waay, S.J. 126, 127, 159
Klimt, G. 26 Mak, A., auction house 29, 126, 127, 166,
Klomp, M. 268 168
Kloos, W. 207 Manet, . 37, 60, 68, 126, 235

index of names

A Real Van Gogh.indd 348 29-5-2010 15:24:06

Manheim, R. 339 Oosterbaan Martinius, W. 322, 340
Mann, T. 214 Osborn, M. 132, 133
Marijnissen, A. 232, 233, 240 Osthaus, K. 262
Maris, M. 116, 174 Oversloot, J. 303, 305, 340
Marquis, A.G. 340
Matisse, H. 89, 166 P
Matthiesen, art gallery 72, 75, 76, 102,
110, 139, 151, 153, 154, 175 Panofsky, E. 22
Mauss, M. 255, 324 Paret, P. 340
McBride, H. 90 Pascin, J. 166
Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Prince Hendrik Paul, B. 340
van 114 Perls, art gallery Hugo 51, 102, 340
Meegeren, H. van 86, 204, 205, 222, 226, Perugino, P. 193
232, 320 Petersen, A. 340
Meier-Graefe, J. 10, 51, 58, 59, 61-64, 68, Petit, art gallery Georges 89
74, 76, 112, 127, 129, 135, 139, 143, 144, Phillips, D. 340
147, 148, 151, 152, 157, 163, 174, 340 Picasso, P. 89, 116, 196
Meissner, G. 340 Pickvance, R. 297
Mellon, A. 193-195 Pissarro, C. 214, 256, 260
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, P. von 13, 286, Plasschaert, A.C.A. 39, 125, 171, 172, 174,
287 177
Mendes Da Costa, J. 116 Plaut, J. 225
Merton, R.K. 18, 19, 115, 305, 340 Polak, E. 118, 120, 121, 123, 124
Mies van der Rohe, L. 115 Prudhon, P.P. 235
Modigliani, A. 89
Moeyes, P. 340 R
Moffett, K. 340
Mondriaan, P. 41, 116, 275 Raphael da Urbino 193
Monet, C. 116, 187, 194, 235, 256, 314 Redon, O. 43,
Mller, F. 135, 152 Regteren Altena, J.Q. van 206
Murray, M. see M. Dale Reichan, W. 135, 140
Mussolini, B. 184 Renkewitz, M. 103, 140
Renoir, P.-A. 60, 68, 79, 126, 256
N Rewald, J. 201, 296, 340
Richardson, J. 17
Nauen, H. 83 Rijn, Rembrandt Hzn van 21, 33, 34, 107,
Nieuwenhuizen Segaar, art gallery 183, 111, 193, 208, 237, 244, 282
185 Ring, G. 46, 63, 75, 108, 135, 139
Nieweg, J. 237 Rockefeller, J.D. 89
Rodin, A. 27
O Rell, D.C. 120, 121, 123, 205
Roepers, N. 78, 341
Ohara, M. 91, 142, 186 Roland Holst, R.N. 39, 43, 207,
Oldenzeel, art gallery 232 Roodenburg-Schadd, C. 341

index of names

A Real Van Gogh.indd 349 29-5-2010 15:24:06

Rosenberg, P. 80, 81, 172, 173 Signac, P. 123, 247, 248,
Rosenhagen, H. 64, 129, 135, 145, 146, Simpson, C. 342
148, 149, 151, 152, 163, 180 Sjollema, J. 342
Rousseau le Douanier, H. 235 Slagter, J. 236, 248-250, 253
Rousseau, T. 92 Smith, J. 33
Rubens, P.P. 88, 235, 237, 244, Spiro, E. 135, 151, 152, 154
Ruhemann, H. 135, 146, 155, 158, 341 Staechelin, R. 163
Ruiter, P. de 17, 341 Stalin, J. 184, 221
Ryssel, Paul van (see Gachet pre) Stegeman, E. 42, 342
Stein, S.A. 335
S Steinmetz, S.R. 39, 70
Stern, F. 342
Sablonire, M. de 11, 235, 236, 245, 248, Sternheim, C. 35
250, 251, 253, 278, 341 Steurs, C.H. de 227,
Saltzman, C. 30, 305, 341 Steyn, M.T. 114
Sandberg, W. 11, 203, 211, 212, 215-222, Stolwijk, C. 302, 342
228, 229, 232-236, 239-243, 245, 246, Stone, I. 219
248-250, 263, 264, 266, 273, 275, 283, Stoperan, T. 135, 342
291, 299 Storm van Leeuwen, J. 342
Sandler, I., 341 Stout, G. 225
Savage, G. 341 Stransky, art gallery J. 48, 64, 99
Schaper, J.H.A. 168 Stuck, F. von 66
Scheffler, K. 69, 79, 341
Schendel, A.F.E. 205, 292 T
Scherjon, W. 10, 11,39, 55, 56, 65, 73, 87,
90-95, 97, 98, 101, 102, 104, 108, 110, Tubner, E. 77, 145, 146,
112, 113, 122, 123, 125, 127, 128, 131, 132, Taylor, F.W. 209
135, 140-143, 146, 147, 150-152, 154, 155, Tellegen, A. 274, 275, 279, 285-289, 301
157, 159, 161-169, 171, 175-188, 199, 282, Temple, S. 214
341, 342 Teniers, A. 34
Schinasi, M. 89 Terpstra, J. 124, 168
Schmidt Degener, F. 33, 111 Thannhauser, art gallery 62, 138
Schoeller, A. 227 Thomas, J.A. 98, 135, 139, 145
Schuch, C. 145 Thomson, C. 342
Schuffenecker, A. 13 Thorbecke, R. 231, 299,
Schuffenecker, C-. 81, 143, 264 Thormaehlen, L. 83, 135, 154, 155
Schller, S. 342 Tilborgh, L. van 263, 302, 337,
Schumacher, R. 301, 342 Tintoretto, J. 88, 116
Schtz, C.C. 342 Toorop, C. 41, 92, 116, 183
Schweitzer, G. 102 Traas, J.C. 151, 160, 164, 175, 263
Secrest, M. 342 Tralbaut, M.E. 11, 203, 265-270, 275-280,
Seurat, G. 235 284, 290-296, 342, 343
Severini, G. 187 Trbner, H.W. 66
Siedenburg, J.H.H. 313 Truman, H. 222

index of names

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Tschudi, H. von 60, 61, 67-69, 81 67, 71-79, 83, 84, 87, 90, 93, 95, 96,
Tucholsky, K. 165 101-103, 107-110, 112, 120, 127-132,
Tutein Nolthenius, H. 93 134-141, 143-146, 152, 156, 157, 160, 161,
165, 169, 170, 172, 173, 176, 177, 184,
U 186, 188, 198, 203
Walker, J. 11, 192-196, 198-201, 256
Uelzen, H. 135, 139 Wehlte, K. 135, 154, 164
Uhde, F. von 145 Welsh-Ovcharov, B. 294-297, 343
Uitert, E. van 281, 301, 343 Wennekes, W. 117, 343
Utrillo, M. 166, 237, 240 Westheim, P. 343
Wet, C.R. de 114
V Wibaut, F.M. 121, 124, 208, 209
Wibaut, J. 208
Valentiner, W.R. 33, 343 Wijnen, H. van 344
Vecht, A. 169 Wijsenbeek, L.J.F. 241
Veen, G. van der 211 Wild, A.M. de 10, 85-88, 95-104, 109, 112,
Velsquez, D. 193 122, 131-133, 135, 137, 141, 142, 146, 148-
Velde, H. van de 115, 117 151, 153-156, 159, 160, 163, 172, 175, 178,
Vermeer, J. 34, 86, 111, 204, 205, 208, 234, 179, 182, 183, 186, 197, 199, 205, 248, 343
239 Wild, D. de 85
Veronese, P. 235 Wilde, E.L. de 283, 301
Verster, F. 92, 116, 187 Wildenstein, D. 264
Verweij, K. 274 Wildenstein, art gallery 99
Veth, C. 10, 34, 35, 42, 130, 131, 132, 133 Wilhelm II, emperor 30, 60, 61, 67, 69,
144, 149, 154, 159, 162, 169, 179, 200, 70, 231
204, 207, 343 Willink, A.C. 227
Vinci, L. da 100, 221, 231, Wisselingh, art gallery van 238
Vink, H.J. 343 Wolff, E. 72
Visser, P. 120 Wolk, J. van der 271, 301, 343
Vogelsang, W. 31 Wolowsky, G. 102
Vollard, art gallery A. 30 Wouters, K. 335
Vosmaer, C. 33
Vries, A. B. 204, 235, 275 Z

W Zandleven, J. 41
Zatzenstein, F. 139
Wacker, H. 83, 84 Zemel, C.M. 305, 344
Wacker, L. 57, 73, 76, 78, 83, 152, 180 Zimmermann, M.F. 344
Wacker, O. 10, 46-48, 50, 51, 54-59, 61- Zwartendijk, J. 38, 111, 112, 127, 132, 163

index of names

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