Jo van Gogh-Bonger (1862-1925) was a outstanding lady, and her story deserves to be informed at size. Hans Luijten’s wealthy and thorough biography, initially revealed in Dutch in 2019, serves her admirably, giving a full account of her loyalty and dedication as she devoted her life to the legacy of her much-loved husband, the artwork supplier Theo van Gogh, and of his painter brother, Vincent.
Jo Bonger married Theo in April 1889, aged 26, and moved with him to Paris. However he died in January 1891 after solely 17 months of marriage, leaving her with their child son, additionally named Vincent. She had solely briefly met her brother-in-law however inherited duty for the lots of of canvases and drawings that he left. She returned to the Netherlands and for a few years ran a visitor home at Bussum, close to Amsterdam. Within the meantime, she entered into sensible relations with the artists, writers and sellers who wished, from their completely different views, to advertise Vincent van Gogh.
This curiosity in and help for Van Gogh’s work after his demise in 1890 got here instantly from his fellow artist Émile Bernard and writers similar to Julien Leclercq. And inside two years of his suicide, exhibitions had been held on the Barc de Boutteville gallery in Paris and on the Kunstkring in The Hague, with the Belgians and Germans additionally immediate to characteristic his work. However this curiosity, quickly to turn into demand, needed to be managed. Between 1900 and the most important retrospective of greater than 400 works in 1905, staged on the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, there have been 15 exhibitions, all requesting loans. Sellers similar to Ambroise Vollard in Paris and Paul Cassirer in Berlin negotiated to purchase work, and surreptitious makes an attempt by each the Bernheim-Jeune gallery and the rich Helene Kröller-Müller to accumulate the entire assortment wanted to be thwarted.
This sensible and prudent Dutch bourgeoise orchestrated the posthumous fascination along with her late brother-in-law’s life and work
The biography is in some ways the story of how this sensible and prudent Dutch bourgeoise orchestrated the posthumous fascination along with her late brother-in-law’s life and work. Van Gogh-Bonger felt an obligation to each Vincent the artist and to Theo her late husband, and wished to make the world conscious of their fraternal bond, in honour of her brief however pleased marriage and in addition to supply funding for the younger Vincent. By the point of her demise in 1925, she had offered virtually 200 work and greater than 50 works on paper, nonetheless leaving sufficient for her son to discovered the Van Gogh Museum, which opened in Amsterdam in 1973.
An informed lady who had taught English and translated novels for Dutch newspapers, Van Gogh-Bonger was conscious that their correspondence introduced the useless alive. In 1914 she revealed Vincent’s letters to Theo in three volumes and by the point of her demise had translated two-thirds of the artist’s letters into English. A critical character with little sense of humour, her later relationships weren’t so profitable, first with the libertine artist Isaac Israëls after which in her second marriage in 1901 to a different painter, the neurotic Johan Gosschalk. We study that Van Gogh-Bonger was motivated by her pious Protestant upbringing but additionally trendy currents; she was a founder member of the Dutch Social Democrat Employee’s Celebration in 1894 and a robust proponent of girls’s rights.
Luijten was one of many editors of Van Gogh’s correspondence, revealed in 2009. His indomitable analysis within the archives brings Van Gogh-Bonger absolutely to life, citing faculty studies, her diary and when she first rode a tricycle. There may be a lot new materials, such because the hundred letters Israëls wrote to her, and intensive footnotes within the authentic languages with English translations. A dutiful and decided lady has been matched with an altogether apt biography.
• Jo van Gogh-Bonger: The Lady Who Made Vincent Well-known, by Hans Luijten, translated by Lynne Richards. Printed 3 November by Bloomsbury Publishing, 544pp, 63 color & 67 b/w illustrations, £20 (hb)