Johanna Gezina Bonger

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Johanna Gezina Bonger

Also Known As: "Jo"
Birthdate: (62)
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Death: September 2, 1925 (62)
Laren, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Hendrik Christiaan Bonger and Hermina Louise Weissman
Wife of Johan Henri Gustave Cohen Gosschalk and Theodorus van Gogh
Mother of Vincent Willem van Gogh, Jr.
Sister of Andries Bonger

Managed by: Diederik Mooij
Last Updated:

About Johanna Gezina Bonger


Johanna Gezina van Gogh-Bonger was the wife of Theo van Gogh, art dealer, and the sister-in-law of the painter Vincent van Gogh. After the death of Vincent and her husband she worked assiduously on editing the brothers' correspondence, producing the first volume in Dutch in 1914. She also played a key role in the growth of Vincent's fame and reputation through her donations of his work to various early retrospective exhibitions.

The biography of Jo Bonger (1862-1925)

The planned biography of Jo Bonger (1862-1925) will concentrate on this remarkable person and on her role in bringing the lives and work of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh to the attention of the public. It will be a ‘critical, interpretative biography’, in which Hans Luijten will draw on wide-ranging research, taking into account the social, cultural and economic context. He will make selections from the numerous letters, diaries, cash books and other documents.

Jan Fontijn, Frederik van Eeden's biographer, wrote: ‘A human life only acquires significance when it is transformed into a story. And if that life story isn't to become an endless mash, we need turning points to provide the life with a structure.’ There are a number of clear turning points in Jo Bonger's life that can provide the biography with a structure: her first job as an English teacher at the boarding school in Elburg (1884); her engagement and marriage to Theo Van Gogh (1888-1889); the birth of their son Vincent Willem (1890); Theo's untimely death (1891); her interest in the estate of her brother-in-law Vincent, as shown by her promotion of his work through exhibitions and auctions; her second marriage to Johan Cohen Gosschalk (1901); Johan's death (1912); and the preparations for the first publication of Letters to his brother (1914).

Social democratic women

Jo was one of the founding members in 1905 of the first social democratic women's society in Amsterdam; in her final years, there was more interest in her socialist sympathies. Her obituary in The Proletarian Woman on 10 September 1925 recalled: 'She always apologised for not being more active in the movement. She would say that bringing her son up properly was also a good thing to do for society. “So that has been my main work”.’ The life of Jo Bonger is inextricably linked with that of her son, Vincent Willem. Ultimately, he would be the one to assume that task that had been his mother's for 35 years, publicising and furthering understanding of the work of Vincent and Theo.

The precise length of the biography has still to be decided – and the same applies to the publication date.

Researcher: Hans Luijten

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Johanna Gezina Bonger's Timeline

October 4, 1862
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
January 31, 1890
Age 27
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
September 2, 1925
Age 62
Laren, Noord-Holland, Netherlands