In his magisterial biography of Jo van Gogh-Bonger—the wife of Vincent van Gogh’s brother Theo—the Van Gogh Museum senior researcher Hans Luijten has produced the most significant addition to the Van Gogh literature in nearly forty years, since the appearance of Jan Hulsker’s Lotgenoten (1985), the standard academic biography of the painter. Yet Luijten’s book is not about Vincent. Rather, it chronicles the tireless work of a young widow who, almost single-handedly, created the myth, market value, and universal renown associated with this troubled but brilliant man’s name today.

In February 1890, while confined to the mental asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in the South of France, Van Gogh painted a remarkable picture from the viewpoint of a newborn child, snug in a cradle, looking straight up at the sky. It depicts the...

 

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