Vincent Willem van Gogh, son of Theo and Johanna, was named after his famous uncle, but throughout his early years he strove to make a name for himself outside the ever-growing shadow of his Uncle Vincent.
Vincent Willem entered the College of Technology at Delft in 1907 and graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1914. Indeed, throughout his life he was often affectionately referred to as “The Engineer”. A far more pragmatic thinker than many of the art-inclined members of his family, Vincent Willem would write “I was never taught how to understand art (paintings, music). I cared nothing about it. I respected it, but regarded it as a sort of sorcery that was not for me.”
Although Vincent Willem didn’t share his mother’s passion for his uncle’s legacy, he nevertheless respected the vast art collection he had inherited and was generous in loaning his uncle’s works to various museums. After World War II, however, Vincent Willem took more of an interest in the collection and he dreamed of establishing a museum specifically dedicated to his uncle’s art.
Vincent Willem, “The Engineer”, was instrumental to the establishment of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation in 1960. For the next thirteen years he dedicated himself to the planning and construction of the Van Gogh Museum. Like his mother, Johanna, Vincent Willem was a devoted and dedicated caretaker of uncle’s collection of art works. His children and grandchildren continue to have an active role today in the Vincent van Gogh Foundation.
The Letters of Vincent van Gogh refers to a collection of 903 surviving letters written (820) or received (83) by Vincent van Gogh. More than 650 of these were from Vincent to his brother Theo. The collection also includes letters van Gogh wrote to his sister Wil and other relatives, as well as between artists such as Paul Gauguin, Anthon van Rappard and Émile Bernard.
Vincent’s sister-in-law and wife to his brother Theo, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, spent many years after her husband’s death in 1891 compiling the letters, which were first published in 1914. Arnold Pomerans, editor of a 1966 selection of the letters, wrote that Theo “was the kind of man who saved even the smallest scrap of paper”, and it is to this trait that the public owes the 663 letters from Vincent. By contrast Vincent infrequently kept letters sent him and just 84 have survived, of which 39 were from Theo. Nevertheless, it is to these letters between the brothers that is owed much of what is known today about Vincent van Gogh. Indeed, the only period where the public is relatively uninformed is the Parisian period when they shared an apartment and had no need to correspond. The letters effectively play much the same role in shedding light on the art of the period as those between the de Goncourt brothers did for literature.
He’s interviewed here by the Director of Communications for the New York Graphic Society, discussing the publication of the first complete edition of his uncle’s letters.