Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in history, and it is due in large part to the tireless efforts of his brother Theo and Theo’s widow, Jo Van Gogh-Bonger. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with the opening of a new exhibit, “Choosing Vincent,” which highlights the important role that Jo played in preserving and promoting Vincent’s work.
During Vincent’s lifetime, he only sold a few paintings and often struggled with self-doubt about his talent. After Vincent died in 1890 and Theo passed away six months later, Jo was left with a collection of paintings by a virtually unknown artist. Instead of selling the paintings, Jo dedicated her life to making sure that the world saw the genius of Vincent’s works, as she believed in her brother-in-law’s talent and followed Theo’s dream of finding recognition for him.
Jo not only preserved the paintings, but also the correspondence between Vincent and Theo, which was later published as “Dear Theo.” With the help of Theo and Jo’s son, also named Vincent, the collection was handed over to the Vincent van Gogh Foundation in 1962, which later became the Van Gogh Museum. The museum, which houses more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 800 letters, is the largest collection globally by the painter.
The “Choosing Vincent” exhibit features several of Vincent’s famous paintings, as well as rarely-seen objects, including his birth certificate and the only known photograph of him in existence. The exhibition highlights the close relationship between Vincent, Theo, and Jo, and tells a story about their family and how they were instrumental in preserving Vincent’s legacy. Today, Vincent van Gogh’s paintings, including “Sunflowers” and “Irises,” are some of the most expensive ever sold, and his work continues to be celebrated and admired.