That Vincent van Gogh’s work became celebrated and renowned chiefly posthumously after his early death in 1890 at the age of 37 is ubiquitous. Yet fundamentally underknown is the role of his sister-in-law, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, in ensuring Vincent’s life and work were not forgotten. Hans Luijten’s pivotal new exploration of her life in The Woman Who Made Vincent Famous aims to rewrite this part of the narrative.
Luijten, who is a Senior Researcher at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, has written extensively about the artist himself. In his latest book, he draws on a vast array of astonishing first-hand source material, including diaries and letters, to paint a vivid, fascinating account of the woman who dedicated her life after Vincent’s death – and the subsequent death her husband, Vincent’s brother Theo – to taking on the male-dominated world of art dealing to cement the place of van Gogh in history.
Translated by Lynn Richards, the book is an accessible, immensely researched and vital record of van Gogh-Bonger’s remarkable life, which charts her childhood and early life, through to her marriage and motherhood. In doing so, Luijten also depicts the varied life and social-political interests and passions of woman hitherto under represented. She ensured that Vincent’s talent and pieces lived on; now her own extraordinary work and legacy are highlighted in this essential book from Luijten.
Jo Van Gogh-Bonger: The Woman Who Made Vincent Famous, Hans Luijten [trans. Lynn Richards] (Bloomsbury)
Price: £18. Info: here
words CHLOË EDWARDS