Nicholson painting kept a closely-guarded family secret

A painting by a Scottish artist described as a “pivotal” work of modern British art was passed off as a child’s artwork for decades in order to deter thieves.

A closely-guarded family secret, ‘1932 (profile: Venetian red)’ by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) hung in the living room of an Edinburgh home for 64 years. It was given as a wedding present to Elisabeth and Harold Swan in 1951 by Elisabeth’s father, Jim Ede. A friend of the artist, Ede was a young curator at the Tate Gallery before he went on to create Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge University’s gallery of modern art.  Continue reading

Italian police recover two stolen Van Gogh paintings

Two paintings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh stolen from an Amsterdam museum over a decade ago have been recovered in seaside town in Italy.

‘Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church’ (1884) and ‘View of the Sea at Scheveningen’ (1882) are collectively valued at £77 million. They are examples of Van Gogh’s early work with the Scheveningen piece one of just two Dutch seascapes ever made by the artist. In December 2002, thieves used a ladder to climb to the roof of the Van Gogh Museum and broke in undetected by cameras. Octave ‘The Monkey’ Durham and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn removed the works from the walls of the main exhibition hall in minutes and escaped the scene by sliding down a rope. The notorious heist made the FBI’s list of “top 10” art crimes and baffled experts because security guards had been on patrol at the time of the raid. In 2004 the art thieves were convicted of theft after police discovered their DNA at the scene of the crime but the artworks were never found. Continue reading