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Research Biografie Instituut

The biography of Vincent Willem Van Gogh (1890-1978)

Vincent Willem van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh

The leading emphasis of the extensive research that takes place at the Van Gogh Museum is on the artist Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries. Until now, a more specific focus on his nephew, the founder of the Van Gogh Museum who died in 1978, has remained in the background. The planned biography will establish a picture of the life and career of this man, who was determined to preserve the collection of Vincent and Theo van Gogh and to open it up to the public.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh was born in Paris on 31 January 1890, the son of Theo Van Gogh (1857-1891) and Jo Bonger (1862-1925). They named their only child after Theo's brother, the artist Vincent Willem Van Gogh (1853-1890). After Theo's untimely death in 1891, Van Gogh's collection of drawings, paintings and letters, as well as Vincent and Theo's collection of the works of contemporaries, went to Jo. When she died in 1925, her son inherited the collection.

Van Gogh was a versatile and enterprising person. From 1907-1914 he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Delft. After marrying Josina Wibaut in January 1915, he lived and worked as an engineer in France, the United States and Japan. In the early 1920s, the couple returned to the Netherlands. Together with a fellow student from his university days, Ernst Hijmans, Van Gogh founded an organisation consultancy firm in Amsterdam, one of the first in The Netherlands.

After 1945, he turned more and more to studying and publicising the work of his famous uncle. He thought it was important for the collection to remain intact after his death and so, in 1962, at the suggestion of the national government, he placed it with the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, which was established specifically for the purpose. On 3 June 1973, the Vincent van Gogh Museum opened its doors to the public. Van Gogh was in the museum virtually every day until shortly before his death on 28 January 1978 and he devoted his energies to everything related to Vincent, Theo and the museum.

Van Gogh at the Tate Gallery
Van Gogh at the Tate Gallery

The biography will concentrate on the different areas in which Van Gogh was active, and the interaction between them. His background and motives will play a central role, as well his vision of organisational development, his activities relating to the collection, and the establishment of the Van Gogh Museum. This study will draw on a range of sources, including diaries, memorandums, annual reports, letters and family documents. It will contribute to our understanding of organisational consultancy in the Netherlands, the history of the museum sector (and in particular the history of the Van Gogh Museum), and the popularity of the art of Vincent van Gogh.

This research is supervised by prof.dr. Hans Renders and dr. Peter de Ruiter.

Roelie Zwikker

Interview souvenirs du neveu de Vincent Van Gogh
presumably recorded at the time of the exhibition Les amis de Van Gogh in 1960 at the Institut Néerlandais in Paris.

In november 2020, Roelie Zwikker published the article An offer you can refuse in the Van Gogh Museum Articles series. In the article, she describes the offer made by Anton Kröller in 1911 on all paintings by Vincent van Gogh in the collection of Jo van Gogh-Bonger.

Last modified:14 April 2022 09.46 a.m.
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