Jo van Gogh Bonger: The Woman Behind Her Paintings

Jo van Gogh Bonger: The Woman Behind Her Paintings

Who is Jo van Gogh Bonger, the woman who brought Van Gogh’s works to the present?

Author: Merve Yavuz – Haliç University
“I think there is nothing more artistic than loving people” Vincent van Gogh

We all know the artist who is engraved in our memories with the Starry Night, Sunflowers, Wheat Field and Crows, Bedroom in Arles in which yellow, green and blue colors play the leading roles. When we think of modern art, we think of Van Gogh. In this article, we will talk about Jo van Gogh-Bonger, the precious woman behind Van Gogh’s paintings.

Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh, full name Vincent Willem van Gogh, is one of the most well-known and influential figures in western art history. In a little over a decade he produced some 2,100 paintings and drawings, including 860 oil paintings. He brought most of them to world art only in the last two years of his life. We can easily distinguish it from the works of his contemporaries thanks to the colors and expressive brush strokes, which are considered the foundations of modern art.

He, too, is a lost soul whose value cannot be appreciated in his health. He was never satisfied with his own success, and throughout his life, he was someone that society looked at as crazy. Even though he allocated the financial support he received from his brother Theo only to paints, he could not sell his works and could not compete with the so-called popular palace painters of the period.

Van Gogh's self-portrait
Van Gogh’s self-portrait

When the son of his brother Theo, whom he loved dearly, was born, he presented the painting “Blooming Almond Tree” to the little baby. He became the godfather of this baby and gave it his own name. There was now another Vincent Willem van Gogh in the world.

In her “failure-filled” life, according to her, at the age of 37, she committed suicide after years of mental illness and poverty.

Who is Jo van Gogh Bonger?
After Van Gogh’s death, Theo hid all of his brother’s works and correspondence. With Theo’s death, his wife Jo van Gogh-Bonger entered the stage of history. He was left alone with Vincent’s works and his one-year-old son, little Vincent. But Jo was a determined woman who stood firmly on her feet in a male-dominated world. Thanks to him, Vincent’s works would be appreciated. He saw this as a heartfelt duty to his beloved wife Theo. However, he had never seen his wife’s brother more than once or twice in his life.

After Theo’s death, Jo returned to the Netherlands from Paris. He ran a guesthouse in Bussum, and was also a translator. He sold one of his works to make some extra money and, more importantly, to raise Vincent’s awareness. The famous Starry Night painting thus made its way to America.

Taking a clever and strategic approach to raising awareness of Van Gogh’s art, Jo has organized exhibitions as well as selling paintings. In 1905 he opened the largest ever Van Gogh exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Van Gogh’s work became more and more popular, and the price of his works rose.

Jo had a clear vision when it came to sales jobs, she was good at it, but she also knew very well what she didn’t want to sell. Some artifacts remained in the family. When Jo died at the age of 62 in 1925, all the paintings and drawings that Vincent did not sell, in addition to all his letters, were inherited by his son, Vincent Willem.

Nephew Vincent exhibits these works in the heart of the Van Gog Museum, which he founded in 1973. Thanks to the efforts of his mother and mother, he was able to fulfill the dream of his father and uncle.

Thus, Van Gogh, who gained fame after his suicide; He took his place in history as a painter, proving the rhetoric that “crazy and creativity go together”.

Even though Covid-19 has locked us in at home, we can also do the activities that the physical world has to offer from home. Like many museums in Europe, the Van Gogh museum opened its doors free of charge to online visitors with the slogan “We bring museum to you”. The pandemic does not prevent you from exploring the museum, which will be closed until June 1. There is so much to discover online for art lovers, enthusiasts only, school-age children and younger children!

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