Mystery Writer Lynne Kennedy on the Hunt for Missing Van Gogh

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Author Lynne Kennedy publishes her latest novel, Deadly Provenance, inspired by the extraordinary story of the disappearance of Van Gogh's Still Life: Vase with Oleanders during World War II.

Van Gogh's "Still Life: Vase With Oleanders" missing since 1944

While researching her latest novel, Kennedy learned that the oil on canvas, called Still Life: Vase with Oleanders, disappeared in 1944. Inspired by this extraordinary story, Kennedy penned Deadly Provenance.

Mystery writer Lynne Kennedy is on the hunt for a painting by Vincent van Gogh, which vanished during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.

While researching her latest novel, Kennedy learned that the oil on canvas, called Still Life: Vase with Oleanders, disappeared in 1944. Inspired by this extraordinary story, Kennedy penned Deadly Provenance, and created a fictional solution to the missing artwork. In reality, the painting remains lost.

With the recent release of her book, Kennedy hopes to re-energize the search for the missing Van Gogh. Through the Internet’s global community, she is enlisting the help of the public worldwide to track down its fate. Anyone interested in following her progress or has knowledge of the lost painting can contact her at The Hunt.

What facts are known? Before the war, the painting was on display in the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris, owned by a French Jewish family. In 1940, the family suspected that they were going to be targeted by the Nazis. They packed up 30 or so of the paintings from their gallery, including Vase with Oleanders, and gave them to family friends at the Château de Rastignac, a country house near Bordeaux.

In1941, their gallery was, indeed, plundered and their paintings and building were confiscated. On March 30, 1944, Nazis raided the Château, looting as much as they could before burning the building to the ground. It is unknown whether the Bernheim-Jeune’s paintings were destroyed or stolen, but they have not been seen since.

Witnesses to the event declared that the Germans carried packages of every size and shape out of the Château and loaded them onto Nazi trucks. Was the Van Gogh canvas rolled up and secreted away?

As a former science center director, Kennedy has a wealth of contacts in the museum community. She has already begun tapping those resources at the Getty in Los Angeles and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Their information is sketchy, but Kennedy is not deterred.

She has acquired leads from the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) in Washington, D.C. which she is currently following up on. According to HARP, information might be obtained from the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Paris, where family losses are recorded, and the Archives Nationales, which houses materials in the General Commissariat records.

She will also be tracing records from the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, the Nazi agency tasked with the confiscation of art from “undesirables.” The records are voluminous, with hundreds of thousands of displaced artworks listed from myriad countries.

Of note, the diary of Alfred Rosenberg, the leader of the ERR, has recently been uncovered. Could he have alluded to particular art pieces in these pages? Kennedy hopes to confirm this when the diary reaches its eventual destination at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Other avenues of investigation are underway and as new information unfolds, Kennedy will make it public. If and when the work is found, it will be returned it to its rightful owners and, after 70 years, be made visible to the world.

Kennedy is the author of three historical mysteries, each solved by modern technology. With a Master’s Degree in Science and almost 30 years as a science museum director, she has had the opportunity to study history and forensic science, both of which play significant roles in her novels. She blogs regularly and has many loyal fans.

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Lynne Kennedy

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