A recent discovery indicates that it was not a given that the collection was preserved in its present form in the Van Gogh Museum and ended up in the purpose-built museum.
Roelie Zwikker, Senior Researcher at the Van Gogh Museum, discovered that at the beginning of the twentieth century Anton Kröller (the husband of Helene Kröller-Müller) made an offer to buy all of the works by Van Gogh then managed by Jo van Gogh-Bonger. However, the widow of art dealer Theo van Gogh and the artist's sister-in-law had no interest in selling the estate. It was thanks to her son Vincent Willem van Gogh that the collection found its way to the Van Gogh Museum, which opened its doors in 1973.
Zwikker has written an extensive article about the discovery entitled An Offer You Can Refuse that can be read online as of today.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo hold the largest Van Gogh collections in the world. Helene Kröller-Müller greatly admired Van Gogh's work: during her lifetime she acquired 90 paintings and about 170 drawings by the artist. In 1911 she decided to further expand her art collection with the aim of accommodating it in her own museum. Her husband, the wealthy businessman Anton Kröller, then tried to acquire Van Gogh's works owned by Jo van Gogh-Bonger and her son Vincent Willem for his wife's prospective museum.
Zwikker arrived at this discovery by associating an article by the art dealer Johannes de Bois published in 1918 with notes by the French writer and art critic Gustave Coquiot. In the Haarlem's Dagblad, De Bois revealed that in 1911 he had approached Jo with an 'almost unlimited mandate’ on behalf of a client 'who wished to acquire this collection in its entirety for his museum.’ However, he did not mention the name of the aficionado who was so keen to acquire all of Van Gogh's works.
Coquiot, who visited Jo in 1922 when he was working on a book about Vincent van Gogh, afterwards wrote in his personal notes: 'She refused to sell all of Vincent's works to Mrs Kröller, even though Mrs Kröller offered an unlimited sum!’
By reconstructing the events and backgrounds, Zwikker was able to identify Anton Kröller as the person who attempted to acquire the Van Gogh collection in 1911. As mentioned above, Jo was not interested in letting go of all the works. Thanks to her years of dedication to the collection and the later efforts of her son Vincent Willem, the estate largely remained together and the Van Gogh Museum was opened in 1973.