Vincent van Gogh’s story will always be one of the most fascinating stories in art history, as he was famous for being a man who sold one painting in his life, only to be known as one of the greatest artists of all time following his tragic death.
One of Vincent’s only supporters in life was his brother Theo, who died months after him.
There was one person who found herself suddenly responsible with presenting Vincent’s work to the world, and that was his sister-in-law, Theo’s widow, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger.
Many say she is the person who made Vincent van Gogh famous.
Johanna was born in Amsterdam in 1862. She was one of seven children and was close to her siblings. They all had a passion for music and would play instruments together.
Johanna also had a passion for reading and writing and studied English as she got older. Johanna started keeping a detailed diary at 17, where she eventually detailed her journey with the van Gogh brothers and how she gave Vincent’s work a second chance.
She was working as an English teacher in the Netherlands by the time she was 22, which was when she met Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam. A year after they met, she married Theo in 1889, and they had a son named Vincent Willem in 1890.
Vincent van Gogh was a huge part of Johanna’s life, as he and his brother were extremely close companions. Vincent was the godfather of their son, and they would exchange letters, but unfortunately, Johanna’s relationships with her brother and brother-in-law did not last very long.
Theo was diagnosed with syphilis before meeting Johanna, and his condition worsened after Vincent tragically took his life in 1890. Theo passed away just six months later, in 1891.