Joe, meanwhile, continues to believe that the letter to Theo – in which Vincent came as a romantic figure, a tragic figure – will open his soul to America and beyond. Letters to be published in English were his last great objectives.
It proved to be a race against time. His health was failing – he had Parkinson’s disease – and the publisher with whom he had contracted, Alfred Knopf only wanted to produce an abbreviated version, for which he would not agree. She returned to Europe and lived in her last years in a spacious apartment in Amsterdam’s stately Könningenguez and in a country house in Laren. His son, Vincent, and his wife, Josina, moved close to him, and Joe found happiness in the hours he spent each day with his grandchildren. Otherwise, she set out significantly on her life’s mission: shipping one exhibition after another, quarreling with the publisher, while experiencing pain and other symptoms of her illness.
If anything, her passion has increased as she was nearing the end of her life. She gets into an argument over ending a friendship for little money with Paul Kasserer, a German dealer who had teamed up with him to promote Van Gogh. When a romantic novel about the Van Gaugh brothers appeared in German in 1921, they found that factual freedom deepened it. She remained closely involved until Paris, Frankfurt, London, Cleveland, Detroit – and requests for pictures for exhibitions coming at a possible pace – until she could no longer. He died in 1925 at the age of 63.
The first English-language version of letters by Constable and Company in London and Houghton Mifflin in the United States appeared in 1927, two years later. It contained Joe’s introduction, in which he furthers the myth of the suffering artist. She also highlighted her husband’s role: “It was always Theo who understood and supported her.” Seven years later, Ering Stone published his best-selling novel, “Lust for Life”, which was based on letters, about the relationship between the Van Gogh brothers. This in turn became the source material for the film starring Kirk Douglas in 1956. By then, the myth was swallowed up. No one referred to Van Gogh’s life more than Pablo Picasso – “essentially monotonous and tragic” – as in “Verse of Our Time”.
Another tribute was to pay tribute to her brother-in-law and her husband. Late in her life, as she was translating the letters into English, she arranged for Theo’s remains to be rendered indifferent to the Dutch cemetery, where she was to rest and revolt at the Auvers-sur-Oise next to Vincent. Was kept for As at the Amsterdam Exposition, he carried out the operation as usual, overseeing every detail, to turn on the Matching Gravestone. Hans Luigen told me that he found it to be a clear expression of his single-minded devotion. “She wanted to keep them together forever,” said Luigen.
A wife digs out the remains of her husband, a shocking image that reverts to the central question of Joe’s life: his inspiration. Why, after all, he gripped himself for this reason and crossed the length of his life. Certainly his belief about Vincent’s talent and his desire to honor Theo’s wishes prevailed. And Luigen told me that in promoting Van Gogh’s art, she believed that she was also advancing her socio-political beliefs.
But people also work with small, simple motives. Joe’s 21 months with Theo were the most intense of his life. He experienced a revolution in Paris, bliss, color and culture. With Theo’s help, she broke out of her careful, traditional world and gave herself up to passion. Today, walking through the museum that is included in all the paintings that cannot run away with another perception surfaces: that, in devoting himself completely to Vincent van Gogh, in selling it to the world, he He was keeping that moment of youth alive. , And allows the rest of us to feel it.