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Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait turns out to be a portrait of his brother Theo

  • 2 min read

Experts have now concluded that a painting on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is actually of his brother Theo. It is thought the work was created when the pair lived together in Paris in 1887, and is believed to be the only known painting of Theo.

Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo were very closed and Theo had a huge influence on Vincent’s career as an artist as well as our knowledge of him.

Theo was Vincent’s younger brother and they both started out working for the same firm as art dealers. Theo remained an art dealer and it was his financial support that allowed Vincent to become a full time artist. Theo raised the profile of Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Edgar Degas by persuading his employers, Goupil & Cie, to exhibit and buy their works. He also introduced Vincent to other artists including Paul Gauguin, and promoted his work.

The relationship between the brothers was turbulent but Theo kept all his brothers correspondence which has proved to be a vital resource for those wishing to understand Vincent Van Gogh’s art and motivations. Theo also kept a huge amount of Vincent’s work which was given by Theo’s son Vincent Willem Van Gogh to form the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation and the collection of the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Almond Blossom one of Van Gough’s most popular paintings was painted in 1890 to celebrate the birth of his nephew. It was a gift for his brother Theo and his wife Johanna and was meant to hang over the couple’s bed. The almond blossom was chosen as a symbol of this new life, as the almond tress in the south of France bloom as early as February announcing the coming of spring.

In 1890 Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide. Sadly Theo’s health also declined and he died in the flowing year. Originally buried in Holland, in 1914 Theo's body was exhumed and re-buried with his brother at Auvers-sur-Oise, where they now lie side by side.

Van Gogh’s painting of Theo can be seen in the Van Gogh in Antwerp and Paris, at the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam until 18th September 2011.

Image Credit: Portrait of Theo van Gogh, 1887, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

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