Theo van Gogh (art dealer)

Theo van Gogh (art dealer)

Theo van Gogh (May 1 1857January 25 1891) was the younger brother of the painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and a successful art dealer. Beginning in 1880, Theo's unfailing financial support allowed his brother to devote himself entirely to painting.


Like his elder brother Vincent, "Theodorus van Gogh", best known by the familiar form of his name "Theo", was born in Groot-Zundert, in the province of Brabant in The Netherlands, son of Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Cornelia Carbentus.


Vincent worked for some years at the Dutch (The Hague) office of the Parisian art dealers Goupil & Cie, and Theo joined the Brussels office on January 1, 1873 as their youngest employee. After Vincent was transferred to the London office, Theo moved to the office in The Hague, where he developed into a successful art dealer. By 1884, he was transferred to the Paris main office. Starting in the winter of 1880–1881, he sent painting materials as well as monthly financial support to Vincent, who was living back in the Netherlands.

Private life

In Paris, Theo met Andries Bonger and his sister Johanna, whom he married in Amsterdam on April 17 1889. The couple lived in Paris, where on January 31 1890 their son Vincent Willem was born. On June 8, the family visited Vincent, who was living near Paris in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Theo van Gogh's great-grandson, also named Theo van Gogh, was a film director, famous for his controversial criticism of Islam. He was murdered in 2004, at the age of 47.

Illness and death

On July 27, 1890, Vincent shot himself in Auvers. One plausible reason for this act may have been that he wanted to stop being a burden to Theo, who maintained not only Vincent but also his young family and their aging mother. Refusing any kind of medical surgery, Vincent died two days later, in the presence of Theo. The next day, Theo recorded these events to his wife and to his mother, and departed for Holland.

Only days later, on July 30, Theo became profoundly depressed and showed serious signs of mental confusion. In September 1890 Theo unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Durand-Ruel gallery to mount a memorial retrospective of Vincent's paintings. In Paris, (the family moved next door), and Theo, assisted by Emile Bernard, improvised a first retrospective posthumous exhibition in his former apartment on September 20, 1890. In October 1890, on the request of Andries Bonger, his brother-in-law, Theo was accepted in the asylum of Auteuil, where he was diagnosed with "acute maniacal excitability with megalomania and progressive general paralysis". At the request of his wife, in November 1890 he was transferred to the "Geneeskundig Gesticht voor Krankzinnigen" ("Medical Institution for the Insane") in Utrecht, The Netherlands. There he died two months later at the age of 33 from complications of the final phase of syphilis, and was buried at the "Eerste Algemene Begraafplaats Soestbergen". Two and a half decades later Theo van Gogh's corpse was transferred to France, and on April 8, 1914, both brothers were re-buried side by side at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise.


Theo admired his elder brother, probably for his lifetime. But communicating with him proved to be difficult, even before Vincent opted to follow his artistic vocation. The communication between both brothers suffered from diverging definitions of standards, and it was evidently Theo who kept on writing letters. Therefore, mostly Vincent's answers survived and little of Theo's input. Theo was often concerned about Vincent's mental condition and he was amongst the few who understood his brother.

Dealer and artist

Theo was instrumental in the popularity of Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Edgar Degas by persuading his employers, Goupil & Cie, to exhibit and buy their works. [Rewald, Gazette des Beaux-Arts 1973] On demand only, Theo seems to have shown Vincent's paintings, but evidently, a loyal apprentice of Goupil & Cie, he never sold one of them.

The two brothers maintained an intensive correspondence with Theo often encouraging his depressed brother. These letters have been collected and published into books, as revealing of the artist's mind and nature.

The relationship between the two brothers was the subject of the movie Vincent & Theo (1990), directed by Robert Altman.

In 1886 he invited Vincent to come and live with him, and from March of that year they shared a house in Montmartre. Theo introduced Vincent to Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat, and in 1888 he persuaded Gauguin to join Vincent, who had moved to Arles in the meantime.



*Anonymous (initialled "H.H.H." and "W.F.d.C.H."): "Van Gogh, 's-Gravenhage", Nederland's Patriciaat 50, 1964, pp. 171–183.
*Hulsker, Jan: "Vincent and Theo van Gogh: A Dual Biography," Ann Arbor, Fuller Publications, 1990. ISBN 0-940537-05-2.
*Jansen, Leo, and Jan Robert: "Kort geluk. De briefwisseling tussen Theo van Gogh en Jo Bonger", Waanders, Zwolle 1999. ISBN 90-400-9353-9 (also available in English).
*Rewald, John: "Theo van Gogh, Goupil, and the Impressionists", Gazette des Beaux-Arts, January & February 1973, pp. 1–107; reprinted in Rewald, John: "Studies in Post-Impressionism", Thames and Hudson, 1986, pp. 7–115 (no ISBN).
*Stolwijk, Chris, & Thomson, Richard: "Theo van Gogh 1857–1891: Art dealer, collector and brother of Vincent", Waanders, Zwolle 1999. ISBN 90-400-9363-6.

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