Vincent van Gogh was wildly unsuccessful in his lifetime. Having decided to become an artist at age 27, he lived the next 10 years on a monthly allowance from his brother Theo prior to committing suicide. A couple of years before he died, Theo married a woman named Jo, and she joined Theo in his quest to make a name for his brother. Theo, you see, was an art dealer.
So far so good, except Vincent becomes more and more debilitated by his mental illness as he grows older – he spent a year in an asylum after checking himself in at the age of 35-36. The brothers were quite close, after Vincent killed himself at 37, Theo died 6 months later from Syphilis.
Now the story could have ended there, but of course it didn’t. What happened? Johanna Gezina van Gogh-Bonger, that’s what. Theo’s wife began publishing a book of Vincent’s letters to her her husband – she had worked as an editor, and after failing to interest anyone in the art world in his paintings, she tried this tactic. It worked.
After apparently not following advice to throw out Vincent’s paintings when Theo died, the success of her books sparked enough attention to allow her and Theo’s son to carry on promoting the collection. They had, of course, named their son Vincent.
But the whole point of this post is not really Van Gogh, but rather how perilously close his work came to being thrown out in the trash. Except for this one woman, it most assuredly would have been.
So how many great artists have forever been relegated to the dustbin of eternity because no one took up their cause after they died?
The answer is more than you can imagine.