JOHANNA: THE OTHER VAN GOGH THE FAMILY VAN GOGH Throughout his life, Vincent was provided for by a number of people, among them his father, brother, uncles, friends, doctors, and Protestant clergymen. Their singular concern for him, clearly evident in Johanna’s writings, does not concur with suggestions by earlier Van Gogh scholars many of whom have propagated the notion that Vincent’s upbringing was abnormal, and was a major cause of his instability. Van Gogh biographer, M.E. Traulbaut, even proposed a Freudian hypothesis that Vincent’s mother had rejected him in favor of her first-born son (also named Vincent) who had been still-born. Johanna attests to just the opposite—that in losing the first Vincent, it was imperative for the family to cherish and nurture the second. Vincent van Gogh was born into an important Dutch family whose members, over the centuries, had been involved in a variety of vocations: theology, government, the military, sculpture, painting, crafts, and book-binding. Three at least were astute and adept in the business of selling art. Vincent’s grandparents had eleven children—two daughters and nine sons. Both daughters married military officers of high rank in the Dutch Armed forces, while six of the sons held notable administrative and business positions in what we now call The Netherlands. Vincent’s Uncle Johannes, a handsome and powerful man, was Vice-Admiral and Commandant of the Dutch Navy—its second-highest ranking officer. Three other sons became art dealers. One in particular was to have a powerful impact on Vincent and Theo in their decisions to pursue careers in art. Also named Vincent, but known as Uncle Cent, he was well-read, highly successful, and very influential. According to Johanna, he had opened a gallery in Den Haag (The Hague) that enjoyed prestige throughout Europe. She described Uncle Cent as a “gifted, witty, and intelligent man, and […]
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