17 sep

The last couple of days I shared my story of How, after 43 years, I got my grandfather into the Dordrechts Museum again. But I didn’t tell you how I got the amazing self portrait of my grandfather. I bought it from Ber Jintes in 1999. Bert had written a book about my grandfather and had organized a Cor Noltee exhibition in his gallery De Rode Deur (The Red Door), located in the street where my grandparents had lived for years. The first example of the Bert’s book was officially given to my grandmother as an openings act for the exhibition of Cor Noltee’s work in the Papendrechts museum. I still remember I felt strange and proud to walk around in a museum with work of Cor Noltee. It was a period in which the prices of my grandfather’s work were extremely high. There was this older gentleman who came to me telling me he had just bought the most expensive Cor Noltee ever; 48.000 dutch guilders. I wonder if that would be €48.000 today.

After the museum opening the whole Noltee family was invited by Bert for a special screening of my grandfather’s work in his gallery. I was shocked by the high prices of the paintings and saw some family members thinking they, finally, became millionaires. I snuffled to the end of the gallery and froze before the last painting. I had goosebumps from my neck to my ankles and was speechless for quite some time. I looked my grandfather in the eyes and felt we connected, clicked. You must know that he and I never met in real life. He died 12 days before I was born. So for me, as a young boy, my grandfather was always this world-famous in Dordrecht, dead impressionist I never met. A self-portrait of this dead painter, with his typical alpino hat and cigarette was hanging on the wall of our house in the Gravenstraat in the center of Dordrecht where I lived with my brother and our mom. And in the hall of our home this other self-portait was hanging.

The first question about art as a little boy was how could grandfather’s eyes on this self-portrait on the wall follow me?! It scared the hell out of me for years. Every night I had to pass grandfather to go to bed. Every night I hoped he had his eyes closed. But grandfather never slept. He had his eyes on me. Always. And now I was standing in front of him feeling like we were about to start a chit chat about the ridiculous high prices. And just when I wanted to ask my grandfather how he was doing, Bert popped up next to me. I said to Bert “I want to buy this” and he replied that, in that case, he had to make a phone call because there already was a potential buyer for the painting, pointing to the green dot next to grandfather. Bert turned around and came back 5 minutes later with a smile on his face, saying “the buyer thought you two should reunite, it’s yours.” Adding if he could keep the painting till the end of the expo. “OfCOR’s” I said giving myself more time to, where the hell, I would get the money for grandfather.

To be continued.

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