Vincent van Gogh, the quintessential tortured modern artist, is coming to town.
He - or, rather, 70 of his paintings - could be Washington's most important visitor this fall, with the National Gallery of Art's exhibit, "Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces From the Van Gogh Museum."
On view here from Oct. 4 through Jan. 3, the show will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, its only other venue, Jan. 17 to April 4, 1999.
However, this is more than a blockbuster exhibition, touted as the largest survey of the art of van Gogh (1853-1890) outside the Netherlands in more than 25 years.
There's an even bigger occasion here than that of a splendid display of glorious Vincent van Gogh paintings, including iconic works such as the "Potato Eaters" (April 1885), "Self-Portrait as an Artist" (January 1888), "The Harvest" (1888), "The Bedroom" (October 1888) and "Wheatfield With Crows" (July 1890).
The important story is that the works in this exhibit come from the collection of van Gogh's family, formed after the artist's suicide on July 27, 1890. It's a tale of family love, self-sacrifice and the van Gogh clan's belief in Vincent's genius. The title of the exhibit, "Van Gogh's Van Goghs," is, therefore, most appropriate.
These paintings might not have been painted had it not been for his brother Theo, who supported him morally and financially throughout his painting career.
Theo was working at the Paris branch of the art gallery of Goupil & Co. (later Boussod, Valadon & Cie) at the time of his brother's death, and died himself just six months later.
From the very beginning of his career, van Gogh sent his paintings to Theo, and they were all in Theo's hands. They would not have been kept together as a collection if Jo van Gogh-Bonger, Theo's widow, had not worked tirelessly to promote Vincent's work.
She returned to Holland with her infant son, Vincent Willem van Gogh, and was the moving force behind exhibitions of van Gogh's work. To build his reputation and support herself and her son, she also began selling pictures from the collection.
Van Gogh-Bonger succeeded in gaining recognition for Vincent and rarely sold any of his works after 1920. She also published the artist's letters to Theo, and excerpts from the letters will be included in the National Gallery exhibition.
After van Gogh-Bonger's death in 1925, the collection went to her son, Vincent Willem (1890-1978), who placed it on long-term loan in 1930 to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
It was …