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Dutch Museum Attempting Van Gogh Acquisition

June 17, 2024
A nineteenth-century portrait of a Dutch peasant woman with a white bonnet

Head of a Woman by Vincent van Gogh

A regional Dutch museum is trying to acquire a Van Gogh painting with local significance but is failing to raise the necessary funds.

The Noordbrabants Museum in the city ofs-Hertogenbosch houses an impressive collection of Dutch and Flemish art ranging from Old Masters like Hieronymus Bosch to contemporary artists JCJ Vanderheyden. The work of Vincent van Gogh has a special place in the museum mostly because of the artist’s connections to the Dutch region of North Brabant. Between 1883 and 1885, van Gogh lived in Nuenen, about 20 miles southeast ofs-Hertogenbosch. There, he created close to 200 paintings, mostly landscapes and scenes of village life, such as The Potato Eaters and Parsonage Garden at Nuenen. The Noordbrabants Museum has several paintings from Van Gogh’s time in Nuenen but is raising money to acquire another one. Head of a Woman, created between March and April 1885, is said to be a portrait of Gordina de Groot, a local peasant woman who appeared in several of his paintings, including The Potato Eaters. Van Gogh and De Groot shared a close friendship, to the point that some deduced that they were romantically involved with one another. When De Groot mysteriously became pregnant, many accused van Gogh of being the father. Most art historians dismiss this as just village gossip.

The portrait was previously in a private collection in Switzerland until February 2023, when it appeared at Christie’s London 20th/21st Century Evening sale. It was predicted to sell for no more than £2 million but sold for £4 million (or £4.8 million w/p). And now, just over a year later, the anonymous buyer has put the painting back on the market with an asking price of €8.6 million. The museum has received generous donations from the Dutch government and arts organizations like the Vereniging Rembrandt and the Mondriaan Fund. However, the museum has only raised about €6 million, or only about 70% of the money necessary to acquire the work. 

Jacqueline Grandjean, the Noordbrabants Museum’s director, stated,This is the last chance to acquire this important heritage for Brabant before it disappears forever behind closed doors.Grandjean went on to call the portrait of De Grootthe Mona Lisa of Brabant”. The museum has now called for donations from the public, with anyone able to donate money via the museum’s website. Whoever donates at least €100 will receive an invitation to a museum after-hours event and have their name put up on the website for a day. Of course, this is a tremendous undertaking for any museum. With Van Gogh’s paintings fetching enormous sums on the secondary market, a museum acquiring one for its collection requires all the help it can get.

Should the Noordbrabants Museum successfully purchase Head of a Woman, it would be the fifth work by Van Gogh they have acquired since 2016. In fact, the museum is the only place in the region that exhibits Van Gogh’s works. The museum’s ultimate plan is to organize a tour to display the painting at several local and regional museums and galleries in North Brabant.