NETFLIX NOTESRaiders of the Lost Art, Van Gogh’s Guardian.

Few people today have not heard of the great impressionist artist, Vincent van Gogh. He was before his time with his painting style and was known to have mental health problems, one time resulting in him lopping off a piece of his own ear. Brilliant, avant garde, and troubled was young Vincent.

His decision, or perhaps compulsion, to pursue a career in art in a time when impressionism was still in it’s early, and for those times, shocking, stages meant that the French art establishment of his day paid no attention to his work.

Vincent’s main benefactor was is own brother, Theo.

A little background

Theo Van Gogh was an art dealer, and died at 33, just six months after Vincent died at 37. He left a wife, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger and one son, also named Vincent. She had an apartment in Paris, and approximately 600 pieces of Vincent’s art, including around 200 paintings. She also had in her possession all the letters that passed between Theo and Vincent over the years.

A complete unknown

After the van Gogh brothers died, Johanna Bonger became the sole owner of all Vincent’s work. She was a clever lady and no doubt in need of an income but she saw the value in the legacy she had been left and used it not only to support herself and her son, but in her lifetime to elevate Vincent’s work to worldwide fame.

An unsung woman

Lost in the shadow of Vincent van Gogh, an artist who would himself have been lost to time were it not for her effort, Johanna Bonger was born in 1862 in Amsterdam, the daughter of an insurance broker. She earned the equivalent of a college degree and worked for a time in the library of the British Museum.

After Theo’s death in Paris, she moved back to the Netherlands where she opened a boarding house near Amsterdam.

Over time, she sold Vincent’s paintings, and in 1914, she published the letters from Vincent to Theo. These helped to raise interest in the artist and his work and the price of his paintings began to rise with his renown.

Smart and forward-thinking

Johanna van Gogh-Bonger proved herself to be an able marketer and a savvy businesswoman.

During her lifetime, she sold one of Vincent’s most famous paintings, one of the Sunflower series, to the National Gallery in London where it still hangs today.

According to Raiders of the Lost Art, several of van Gogh’s paintings are still missing, and several fakes have surfaced as well. The highest price paid for a van Gogh painting was in 1990, when his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” went for $82.5 million. The fact that they have such astronomical value today is due in large part to the tireless efforts of his sister-in-law, Johanna Bonger.