On May 1, 1857 Vincent van Gogh’s younger brother Theo was born. Theo was Vincent’s closest confident, best friend and biggest supporter. Although they didn’t live together much during their adult years and didn’t get to see each other very often, they stayed in touch through the hundreds of letters that Vincent wrote. In honor of Theo’s birthday, Vincent would frequently send Theo a letter with birthday greetings and often a recently completed painting or drawing.
On April 30, 1881, Vincent wrote,
“My best wishes for your birthday. I often think of your visit; I am glad that we saw each other again, and hope you will come back this summer.”
A few years later on April 30, 1885 Van Gogh was living in Nuenen when he wrote,
“My warmest good wishes for good health and peace of mind on your birthday. I should have liked to send the painting of the Potato Eaters for this day, but although it’s coming along well, it isn’t quite finished yet.”
By April 30th of 1890, Van Gogh was staying in the St. Paul Hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence when he wrote the following in a letter to Theo,
“Until now I have not been able to write you, but being a bit better just now, I did not wish to delay wishing you a happy year, since it’s your birthday, you and your wife and child. At the same time I beg you to accept the various pictures I am sending you with my thanks for all the kindness you have shown me, for without you I should be very unhappy.”
There have been books and movies covering the lives of these two brothers including the 1990 film Vincent & Theo and the books Vincent and Theo Van Gogh: A Dual Biography by Jan Hulsker, and Theo Van Gogh 1857 to 1891: Art Dealer, Collector and Brother of Vincent by Chris Stolwijk, Richard Thomson and Sijraar Van Heugten just to name a few.
It is because of Theo van Gogh and his wife Johanna that we know so much about Van Gogh and that the world has such a vast collection of his works still today. Thank you Theo.