In the spring of 1890, just before he left the mental hospital that he had agreed to be confined to, Vincent van Gogh painted ‘Wild Roses’. Two months, later, at only thirty seven, he died from a gunshot wound. He told the police and his doctor, “Do not accuse anybody, it is I that wished to commit suicide.” He died, having completed nearly nine hundred paintings – but having sold only one. It was only the financial and emotional support of his brother, Theo, that kept him going. He lived his entire life as an obscure and unknown artist.
Vincent’s younger brother Theo, who worked for an art gallery in Paris, sent artists’s materials and encouragement, as well as money, to his elder brother, who was by then living just north of Paris. On Vincent’s death, it was Theo who collected all his paintings together. But hardly six months after Vincent’s death, Theo died. Although he had been unwell for some months, the doctors of the day put his early death down to the trauma of Vincent’s suicide. He left behind a wife, a son, a collection of paintings by a little known artist and a large pile of correspondence.
Theo’s wife Johanna was made of sterner stuff. It was she who now began to promote and publicise Vincent’s work. It was she who donated examples of his work to be placed in influential exhibitions. It was she who wrote the history of the van Gogh family. It was she who collated and published Vincent’s letters (he was a prolific letter writer).
In short it was his sister in law Johanna who really made Vincent van Gogh famous.