The name Johanna Bonger doesn’t ring a bell with most people. There are those die-hard Van Gogh fans who have his face printed on their pillowcase and can tell you how Vinnie kept his beard game that strong who might have heard of her. Those people probably would also be open to giving Johanna Bonger the gift of their first-born. Simply because if it weren’t for Johanna we might not even know who this Van Gogh fella is today.
Vincent’s decision, or compulsion, to make art at a time when impressionism was at its very early stages meant that the French art establishment was not interested in Van Gogh’s expressions whatsoever. Vincent’s brother, Theo, was an art dealer who died just six months after the artist himself. Theo left his wife, Johanna Bonger and their son, also named Vincent, behind with approximately 600 pieces of Vincent’s life passion. Johanna also had possession of all the letters that passed between the two brothers over the years.
Most of VG’s fans know that he struggled as an artist, then died and became world-famous. But how exactly this is happen? Works only became famous when they were in the right hands at the right time, you know, before things went hash tag viral. These hands were fortunately Johanna’s, the sole owner of all of Vincent’s work. She was one clever cookie who was in need of an income but also saw the value in the legacy she has been left with. Not only did she use Van Gogh’s visual stories to support herself and her son but she also made sure to elevate his works to worldwide fame.
The works and words Vincent communicated with weren’t lost in time because Johanna published the letters in 1914 to raise interest in the artist on a personal level while selling his paintings from a boarding house near Amsterdam.
Bonger proved to be a forward- thinking marketer and savvy businesswoman. During her lifetime she sold one of Vincent’s most famous paintings of the Sunflower series to the National Gallery in London where it still hangs to this day. The steadfast efforts of his sister-in-law play a very large part in the grand value Vincent’s artistry has today.