My brother Alfons, a painter from the South Limburg village of Elsloo, rummages through his photo material that he has collected during his painter’s life until then. He is looking for a motif for a new painting to be made. His eye falls on a black and white photo and a color photo of Huize De Koekamp in Oud-Geleen. The black and white photo was taken many years ago by his father, he took the color photo himself.
Alfons imagines himself back in time when his father regularly talked about Huize De Koekamp. how he lived there with his parents in the coach house and that he was pampered by Lady Haan. Grandpa Smeets worked at Huize De Koekamp as a kind of handyman. He was a contractor by trade and knew how to maintain such a large building. The lady, who lived in the building from 1902, was childless and spoiled the contractor’s son as if it were her own. She was so fond of the boy back then that she decided one day to donate his father, the contractor, a piece of land on Bergstraat of about 2000 m2 and a sum of money. The property was only a few hundred meters away from De Koekamp.With that money he had to build a house on that plot and their child would later inherit house and land. This happened and the house at Bergstraat 6 in Oud-Geleen became a fact. Father married Mia Stevens and that resulted in a complete eleven of children.
Alfons was born as the fourth child in that house behind the railway. He regularly visited Huize De Koekamp and gazed at the beautiful paneling and many rooms and corridors. He decides to use the two photos to make a painting of Huize De Koekamp. He muses on the harsh winter of 1963 and decides to incorporate it into the painting. The snow has cleared the field, after weeks of covering the landscape with a white sheet. The tops of the trees show that they had to bear the heavy snow for a long time. They humbly bend forward, before turning straight back to the approaching spring sun after a while.
The painting has been part of his collection for a number of years and moves to his new studio / gallery in Valkenburg a / d Geul, Art Gallery AS. There it will be given a prominent place on one of the many walls in the beautiful and especially large building in the tourist town.
In 1996 a visitor enters his gallery and buys the painting. He says that it is intended as a gift for a woman who lives in New York, but originally comes from Geleen and knows Huize De Koekamp well. That person is celebrating their 40th anniversary in New York and such an occasion should of course be a very appropriate gift, said the buyer. The man then personally takes the painting to New York. There it is admired by the woman for years. The painting fills her with emotions. Then she dies and Alfons learns from the first buyer that the painting is returning to the Netherlands. The son of the original purchaser receives it as a gift and in that house it is also received and cherished with open arms. At some point, a couple visits that son. They do not hide how beautiful they think the painting is. The owner decides to give the work to this couple as a present on the occasion of their wedding.
A few years later, the generous donor of the painting suddenly dies. The couple is deeply impressed by this and because of those emotions they no longer want the painting at home. It reminds them too much of the deceased. They had heard from the giver that the maker of the painting was open to an exchange of his sold paintings. On the back of the painting they find a business card of Alfons with his name and telephone number. However, the latter appears to be the old number from Elsloo. They search for Alfons Smeets via Google and there they find his website with the current address and telephone number. Contact is quickly made and Alfons does what he has been doing for years. The canvas is exchanged for a painting of your choice. It will be a tulip field. Everyone is happy and delighted.
We arrived in the year 2010, 16 years after Alfons let his brushes and paint do the work on the canvas. The painting is again on the wall at Alfons. The world tour, which started in 1996, ended via New York and various places in the Netherlands with its maker in Valkenburg a / d Geul. The painter does not have to travel the world to be there. For years it was viewed, admired and loved with great attention and nostalgia. It was bought, given away twice as a gift on special occasions, mourned for the death of one of the generous donors, and eventually exchanged for a tulip field.
In 2015, it still finds peace on the wall of its originator, but now in its new residence in Schin op Geul. There it waits quietly for a new admirer. Who knows, it will be a new Oud-Gelener, living on the waves of bygone times and nostalgia? Or just with someone who can bring his own emotions to life?
In any case, the painting Huize De koekamp has returned to its roots.
Text: © 2015 Jacques Smeets
Painting: © Alfons Smeets