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The Van Gogh Sisters

Willem-Jan Verlinden


The previously neglected voices of Van Gogh's sisters are revealed in this perceptive, unprecedented biography

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In this thoughtful and unprecedented biographical history, Willem-Jan Verlinden delves into previously unpublished correspondence in the Van Gogh family archives to bring Vincent’s three sisters out from their brother’s shadow, poignantly portraying their dreams, disappointments and grief. The Van Gogh siblings grew up at a time when long-distance travel by train first became possible. As each went their own way, following work and study to London, Paris, Brussels and beyond, they maintained the close relationships forged in their youth in the idyllic Netherlands countryside by sending candid and personal letters. The oldest sister, Anna, worked as a governess in England as a young woman before marrying a Dutch industrialist. It was an argument with Anna, in the aftermath of their father’s death, that provoked Vincent to leave the Netherlands and never return. The second sister, Lies, fell into poverty in spite of her literary aspirations and was forced to sell many of her brother’s paintings. Willemien, the third sister, was an active participant in the emerging feminist movement. She visited the studio of Edgar Degas in Paris with her art-dealer brother Theo and discussed art enthusiastically with Vincent. She and Vincent also shared their struggles with mental health, which for Willemien resulted in institutionalization for the second half of her life.

The lively and revealing correspondence that Vincent van Gogh maintained with his brother Theo is already famous as a source of insight into the mind of one of the most celebrated artists of all time. The previously neglected voices of his sisters Anna, Lies and Willemien, with whom Vincent had intimate and sometimes turbulent relationships, are now uncovered. In telling their stories, The Van Gogh Sisters not only enhances our appreciation of their brother Vincent’s life and art, but also captures their own lives with clarity and empathy, and casts new light on a moment of profound social, economic and artistic change.

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'In 'The Van Gogh Sisters' we see Van Gogh’s story through the eyes and voices of the young women in his family circle. Their distinctive perspective offers valuable insights into Van Gogh’s values and family life and enables the sisters to step forward in their own right'
Carol Jacobi, Curator, Tate

'An interior look at the sisters’ challenges and desires ... compelling and intimate'

'Gives insights into the tragedy and turmoil of [the sisters'] lives'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.4 x 15.3 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Illustrations: 132

Publication date: 8 April 2021

ISBN: 9780500023600

Contents List

1. It was terrible. I shall never forget that night: Nuenen, 1885 • 2. Undisturbed Married Felicity: The Hague, Breda and Zundert, 1851 and earlier • 3. The Land of Desire: Zundert, 1851-1871 • 4. Young Mistresses: Helvoirt, Leeuwarden, Tiel, 1871-1875 • 5. Cottages Covered in Ivy: London, Welwyn, 1873-1877 • 6. Quiet at Home: Etten, Tiel, Dordrecht, Soesterberg, ’s-Hertogenbosch, 1875-1882 • 7. Memories of the Garden: Etten, Hengelo, Leiderdorp, 1876-1877 • 8. Great and Holy in his Final Rest: Nuenen, Leiderdorp, Soesterberg, 1882-1886 • 9. My Greatest Ambition is to Write Something Original: Soesterberg, Elburg, Breda, Middelharnis, Amsterdam, Paris, 1885-1888 • 10. All Such a Dreadful Muddl: Breda, Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, Soesterberg, 1886-1889 • 11. I Just Can’t Imagine You in Paris: Soesterberg, Leiden, Paris 1889-1890 • 12. Dear Sister, Dear Vincent: Paris, Leiden, Arles, Auvers-sur-Oise 1888-1890 • 13. Oh, Mother, He Was So Truly My Brother: Paris, Leiden, Auvers-sur-Oise, Utrecht 1890-1891 • 14. The Poison of Impropriety: Nijmegen, The Hague, 1893-1898 • 15. Such Momentous Times! Leiden, Dieren, Baarn, Ermelo-Veldwijk, 1900-1920 • 16. Poetry as Clear as a Brook: Baarn, Ermelo-Veldwijk, 1920-1934 • 17. The Last Years: Amsterdam, Baarn, Dieren, Ermelo-Veldwijk, 1925-1941

About the Author

Willem-Jan Verlinden was born in the Netherlands and studied art history in Leiden. He has worked for a number of museums and art foundations and is the co-author, with Kristine Gorenhart, of How I Love London: Walking Through Vincent Van Gogh’s London.

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