Starry Night Art Capsule
How much is an artist worth? Is it the monetary value of their work? Van Gogh's trip through the night sky painted from the window of an asylum is estimated to be worth well over 100 million dollars, or the vibrant Sunflowers, sold in 1987 for a record auction price at the time of close to 40 million pounds.
For this collection Kimberley Gordon looks at the women in Van Gogh's life woven into his life and art.
"The sad stories surrounding Van Gogh run much deeper, he is reflected by power and tragedy in the faces all around him. When I began delving deeper into Van Gogh's story, I was looking for the women. So often in history, women are left out of these important stories, or studied as background props to a mans life. To my delight I discovered story after story of influential, powerful women in his life, each of them unique beauties. Like his passion for sunflowers, the women he surrounded himself with were similarly unusual choices- standing tall in the sun.
It does seem Van Gogh and his brother were drawn to bold women. From Vincent's girlfriend Sien Hoornik, a single mother and sex worker who became his muse and his lover, strong enough to enter into a life of sex work and survive the loss of 2 children, Sien, like Vincent, did eventually commit suicide later in life.
Another lover, Agostina Segatori, an art model with serious drive, who opened her own restaurant Le Tambourin in Paris to much success which was unusual for women to do alone in this era. The café on the Boulevard de Clichy in Paris was just around the corner from the home that Vincent lived in with his brother Theo.
Van Gogh ate for free in exchange for portraits, and Agostina gave him his first art exhibit, all of this before she went bankrupt, lost it all and died. Losing everything is one of the hardest experiences a human can go through, one can only imagine how that would feel as a woman in the early 1900's, it seems possible she died from grief. Of all these stories, most interestingly is the story of the arts rise itself.
How did Vincent become one of the most famous artists of all time after his death?
The answer is one woman, Jo Van Gogh-Bonger, Vincent's sister in law. Vincent wrote frequently to his brother Theo during his life, and after Vincent died, his brother who had also dealt with serious health problems also passed on. Imagine Jo, alone with a new baby, Vincent Willem, widowed and in possession of hundreds of paintings and letters, surrounded by self portraits, trials of sunflowers and haunting stars.
She was consumed by loneliness. Jo, a woman of no standing, no money and no training eventually went on to teach herself the business of art dealing. She poured her grief into Van Gogh's work and knew in her heart that it would be loved by the world. It was not easy for Jo, she was rejected time and time again, art gallery owners called her annoying and crazy (can't we all relate), and laughed when she presented the letters between the brothers as a compelling reason to display what are now some of the most famous paintings in the world. She turned down offers from the wrong galleries and joined the right social circles, building her expertise and plans to make bring Vincent into the light.
In the late 1800's artists were only praised and judged based on their technical talents, and it was completely unheard of to connect the painter to their personal story. Jo changed all of this, and the letters would become part of Vincents collection. A single letter went for 200,000 euro last year. Without Jo there would be no Van Gogh, and the fact that her story and her suffering went ignored for decades feels like we've been leaving out some of the best parts of Van Gogh's legacy.
In this collection, muse Jorji Zimmatore channels these powerful women who were ahead of their time, sunflower women poised like gilded frames around Vincents unforgettable, unique story."