Just before he is executed, Utrecht painter John Dons makes a final painting. He gives it to SS man Willy Engbrocks, his guard in Camp Amersfoort. It hung on his wall for several years, but was never seen anywhere else. That is about to change.
Although a summer day, it is not very warm on Thursday, July 9, 1942. In the greenery outside Utrecht, at Fort Rhijnauwen, a German firing squad docks. A series of dry bangs ends the lives of nine members of the resistance group Oranjewacht.
Among them the Utrecht painter John Dons, 27 years old. At the moment he falls lifeless, and his blood flows, the paint of his last painting is still wet.
He made it in the lonely semi-darkness of his cell, in concentration camp Amersfoort. Borrowing the paint supplies from his camp guard, Willy Engbrocks. This SS officer later declared that John Dons grew calmer with each successive brushstroke.
In those nighttime hours, his last, the young Utrecht applies the paint to the canvas without a moment’s faltering. That same night, he also writes a farewell letter to his family. The words he chooses express some resignation: “Courageously I go into death. Afraid I am not.”
What he leaves behind is an archetypal Dutch landscape. Besides a little church in the distance, we see a footpath and a waterway, all under sky-blue skies. And it shows colorful bulb fields,