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Van Gogh in the Attic

By Dick Bouwman

[Source: Bussum Historical Magazine]

My grandfather lived from 1859 until 1910. He employed house painters, a very enterprising endeavour. In the Nassaulaan, in front of nice residences with driveways, stables, residential staff like a gardener, coachman and so on, he brazenly build his workshop and a house. He saw at once that building land and residences was far more profitable than painting those square yards.

That is probably why he got in touch with Mrs. Van Gogh, Theo’s wife, who had moved to the Koningslaan in Bussum. She had paintings from her brother-in-law Vincent and my grandfather had glass crates and straw. You will understand, the paintings occasionally had to be transported to an exhibition. My grandfather had them picked up in the Koningslaan with a barrow and this way they landed in Nassaulaan 18. Granddad Bouwman packed them in the glass crates and this way the paintings went elsewhere. After some time they returned also. My father, young at the time, remembers his mother asking his father: “Dirk (my grandfather’s name), has anything been sold yet?” “No,” my grandfather said, “everything has come back,” to which my grandmother answered: “Small wonder, who will buy a painting with green pigs?”

A younger brother of my father, who left for America in 1918, returned to Holland in 1968. This uncle told Flip Hamers, a painter from the village Kortenhoef, who was very interested to hear this story that as a boy he used to play football with his friends on this working attic. And there the paintings in question used to sit. Repeatedly it happened that the paintings were hit. When Mrs. Van Gogh had enough of her own space to put the paintings away, they disappeared from our attic. The story goes that my grandfather could choose 2 paintings, but he refused with the words: “We are in the world to help each other, don’t mention it.” Flip Hamers still does not understand this.

I never knew my grandfather, he died in 1910. I was born in 1917 and became a master painter in 1938. If you calculated quickly, you know I am 75 years now. For me a cause to commit this story about the Van Gogh paintings on my grandfather’s attic on paper.

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