Many people are familiar with the life and art of Vincent van Gogh, and his extensive correspondence with his brother Theo. But their sisters—Ana, Lies, and Wil van Gogh—have gone overlooked until now. In this compelling group biography based on extensive primary resources, art historian Willem-Jan Verlinden brings Vincent’s three sisters into the spotlight. At a time when the feminist movement was beginning to take root and idealists were clamoring for revolution, the Van Gogh sisters recorded their aspirations and dreams, their disappointments and grief. Based on little-known correspondence between the sisters, this fascinating account of these remarkable women captures a moment of profound social, economic, and artistic change.
With great clarity and empathy, The Van Gogh Sisters relates the sisters’ intimate discussions of art, poetry, books, personal ambitions, and employment. Their story will resonate with readers and broaden understandings of Vincent van Gogh’s childhood. Set against the backdrop of a turbulent period in nineteenth-century history this story sheds new light on these impressive women, deepening our understanding of this unique and often troubled family.
Anna, Lies, and Willemien van Gogh are quite ordinary, but that is not to say uninteresting. Paying attention to ordinary lives can do vital work in redressing the imbalances of history.
— Joanna Scutts Air Mail
Sheds light on Vincent van Gogh's place within the family, including a complex relationship with his sisters… The book draws you in with stories about the siblings' pursuits of jobs, love, and artistic curiosities, as well as lush portrayals of each family home.
[A] satisfying group biography… Verlinden is passionate about his subjects, and the result is an intimate portrait of a family that swirls around Vincent [van Gogh] and his posthumous legacy like so many brushstrokes.
— Library Journal
[A] biographical triumph… Verlinden's painstaking research and astute observational skills shed light on the relationships each sister had with Van Gogh… [He] approaches the lives of each Van Gogh sister with immense empathy, and gives agency to three young women whose narratives have often been eclipsed by their brother.
— Art New England
Willem-Jan Verlinden studied art history and worked for various Dutch museums and art foundations. Together with Kristine Groenhart, he is the author of How I Love London: Walking Through Vincent van Gogh’s London.