A startling coincidence

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the globe and the first lockdown ensued. Like everyone else in France, Wouter van der Veen suddenly found himself at a loose end while stuck at home unable to work. As did many others, he threw himself into an ambitious programme of organising and filing.

In and among his many files was the one containing the scanned post card of Rue Daubigny. By extraordinary coincidence, this post card happened to be open on his computer screen when he received a long phone call. As the conversation ran on, his gaze drifted into nothingness and then settled on the screen in an almost hypnotic state.

An incredible discovery

Van der Veen knew Van Gogh’s last painting off by heart. In the space of a few seconds, the twisted and mysterious shapes of Van Gogh’s Tree Roots superimposed themselves on the post card and, despite the difference in angle and the growth of the coppice in the intervening years, all the elements of this enigmatic painting fell into place.

Tree Roots, Auvers-sur-Oise, postal card 1900-1910
Tree Roots, Vincent Van Gogh

After the initial excitement at such a major discovery, an important milestone in our understanding of the life and work of Van Gogh, his mind started racing. How could this unique and unexpected discovery be confirmed? And what remained of the site ?