How Did Vincent Van Gogh’s Paintings Become Famous?

Vinent van Gogh's Paintings

Vincent Van Gogh did not see a lot of artistic success during his lifetime. He only sold one painting during his lifetime.

Vincent van Gogh’s painting became famous because his sister-in-law took it upon herself after his death and the death of her husband Theo to find a way to get his paintings and name out to the world. She was brilliant and savvy in how she did this. By the time she had died in 1925, Vicent van Gogh was world renown.

Vincent Van Gogh ad Jo van Gogh- Bonger

Johanna Bonger
Wife of Theo van Gogh

In the last two years of his life, Vincent van Gogh was finally starting to get some of the recognition that he deserved. He received acclaim, especially among the avant-garde as they saw his work being exhibited in Paris and Brussels.

After Vincent van Gogh’s death, his brother Theo wanted nothing more to do with trying to raise the profile of van Gogh and his paintings. But as fate would have it, in 1891, Theo also passed away six months later.

Theo was a very successful art dealer in Paris and one of Vincent’s most adamant supporters. He sent Vincent a lot of money to help him survive over the years when Vincent was in poverty and had no income.

At the young age of 28, Jo lost Theo, the love of her life; they had only been married two years. Theo left Jo a small baby son they named Vincent and an apartment filled the brim with her brother-in-law’s artwork.

Vincent van Gogh was a prolific painter and artist, especially during the last ten years. But he only ever sold one painting during his lifetime. Jo was faced with deciding what she would do with the hundreds of Vincent’s paintings that Theo had left her.

Theo always believed in Vincent van Gogh and his art and wanted to help raise public awareness of van Gogh and his art. As now a single mother, Jo needed to decide what to do with all these paintings she now had in her tiny Paris apartment.

Theo had wished that his brother be remembered. In memory of Theo and his wish, Jo van Gogh-Bonger started to work to ensure that Vincent van Gogh and his artwork were remembered.

Jo moved from Paris to the Dutch town of Bussum. She opened a small Guesthouse. Many writers and artists stayed with her at her guest house.

These fortuitous relationships she made at her guest house helped her to be able to understand more about the art world during the time she lived. They also help open up doors that maybe would not have been open to her without these relationships.

Showing Vincent Van Gogh’s Work To The World

Jo was not only brilliant, but she was an outstanding businesswoman. She believed in what she was doing and helping to promote the work of her brother-in-law Vincent van Gogh.

She organizes sales exhibitions to provide visibility for van Gogh’s work. These exhibitions helped ensure that potential buyers were interested in Van Gogh’s artwork.

She figured out who were the people that she needed to talk to around the world to sell the works of art. She made strategic sales calls to collectors and others.

In 1905 she held the largest ever exhibition of Vincent’s work at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. On display at this exhibition were over 480 pieces of Vincent’s work.

The exhibition was a huge success, and after the show, Vincents’ artwork started to sell, and prices skyrocketed. Vincent Van Gogh was finally on his way to see popularity and fame.

Van Gogh Letters

At this time, Jo also started another major project to publish Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. It must have been highly satisfying for her to learn more about her husband and his brother and their relationship as she read the words they wrote to each other.

Jo set out to edit and select the letter and which ones to publish. There were a lot of letters as the brothers were very close and wrote to each other frequently.

The letters between Theo and Vincent Van Gogh were published in 1914. Due to these letters’ appreciation of Vincent, his life and work also increased.

Jo and The Sunflower Painting

Between 1891 and 1925, Jo sold close to 200 of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. But there was one group of paintings that she had a challenging time parting with: the sunflowers paintings.

Three Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh had painted five sunflower paintings, and Jo and her son sold several of them but kept two of them. Jo loved those paintings dearly. In 1924 she eventually agreed to sell one sunflower paintings to London’s National Gallery.

She told the museum that she only agreed to this because she felt this would help Vincent van Gogh to receive more recognition. Jo held on to the other sunflower painting; and is now a core painting for the van Gogh family collection.

When Jo died in 1925, her brother-in-law Vincent van Gogh and his work were world-famous. Museums all over the world were exhibiting his work.

Jo van Gogh-Bonger said this of her life’s work to bring Vincent van Gogh’s work to the public:

“I am delighted that after years of indifference from the public towards Vincent and his work, to feel that the battle has been won.”

Jo van Gogh-Bonger

The Van Gogh Family and The Musuem

After Jo died, her son Vincent transferred all the family’s artwork to a foundation. He helped start the famous van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Holland.

Because of the generosity of Jo, her son Vincent and the van Gogh family, we can see the art collection of the van Gogh family at the Van Gogh Museum. 

The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is a top-rated museum with millions of visitors viewing the museums and viewing its exhibitions each year.

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Related Questions

What Was The Impact Of Vincent Van Gogh On The Art World?

Van Gogh used color, form, and emotions in his art. He had a bright palette that was individualized for his time. Even though he did not see a lot of success during his life after he died, the impact of his art can be seen in both the Expressionism and Fauvism movements that were taking place in Europe.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading What Was The Impact Of Vincent Van Gogh On The Art World?

Why Is Van Gogh Considered Such a Great Artist?

Many things make Vincent Van Gogh unique and great as an artist. He had a great way to use color in his heart, but more than that, he was an artist who set and paved the way, and his brushstroke technique used color and his design ability. What is interesting about all this he did this as a self-taught artist.

By clicking here, you can discover more by reading Why Is Van Gogh Considered Such a Great Artist?

Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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How Did Vincent van Gogh’s Paintings Become Famous?