Art historians have written profusely about how Theo van Gogh supported his brother Vincent financially and unfailingly encouraged his artistic endeavors. The authors of the engaging Theo: The Other Van Gogh, aided by a voluminous cache of previously unpublished letters, document the unbreakable emotional ties that bound them as well. Temporary obstacles of poor health, financial woes, family disputes and even Theo's marriage threatened to undermine Theo's support of his older brother, but ultimately he never wavered.
Vincent and Theo followed in an uncle's artistic footsteps, both working in different branches of Goupil's, one of Paris' leading art galleries. Theo worked first in Brussels, where artistic creativity was encouraged; he was later transferred to The Hague, where he honed his skills by constant visits to the many local museums. When Vincent suddenly quit his gallery job, his parents worried over his instability. Theo, however, was the son they called "our crown, and our joy."Conflicts at work began to occur when Theo was transferred to Paris in 1878. His job was to present Goupil's artists those whose paintings of history and mythology epitomized the academic style to collectors who were ignoring avant-garde artists such as Millet, Daumier and Courbet. Theo admired the work of the Impressionists and felt constantly at odds with his more conservative employers. It was at this time that Vincent began to pursue his own artistic endeavors, and Theo sent him all he could: 150 francs a month for food, models and art supplies. Despite the artistic constraints he felt at work, Theo knew that if he left, Vincent would be lost without his support.
The authors trace the brothers' alternating bouts of physical illnesses and mental instability, their immersion in the avant-garde art scene, and finally, their untimely deaths, only six months apart. Their story emerges as a microcosm of the tumultuous art world at the end of the 19th century.
Theo wrote after Vincent's death that "one day he will be understood." This fascinating account helps readers to understand not only the famous artist, but also the brother who provided him crucial emotional and artistic support. Deborah Donovan writes from Cincinnati and La Veta, Colorado.