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Van Gogh Museum's First Anniversary Exhibition: 'Choosing Vincent'

The Van Gogh Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023, and is kicking off this special year with a tribute to the Van Gogh family. Without the unconditional support that the family offered Vincent, the museum simply would not have existed.

The exhibition Choosing Vincent. Portrait of a Family History tells the story of the Van Gogh family, which until now has not received the attention it deserves. This story is punctuated with doubt, setbacks, pride and triumph. From 10 February 2023, many masterpieces and less well-known gems show and tell how a personal family collection grew to become a world-famous museum collection.

Vincent van Gogh, his brother Theo, Theo’s wife Jo van Gogh-Bonger and their son Vincent are the protagonists in ‘Choosing Vincent’. Essential to the exhibition is ‘Almond Blossom’, a painting that Vincent made on the occasion of the birth of his nephew, who was named after him. This same nephew ultimately became the driving force behind the foundation of the Van Gogh Museum. Almond Blossom, Vincent van Gogh, 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Vincent dedicated the painting ‘Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes’ to his brother Theo to thank him for his support and faith in his art. ‘Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes’, Vincent van Gogh, 1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Family story

It is to a large degree thanks to the dedication and involvement of the Van Gogh family that the Van Gogh Museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023. The support offered by Vincent’s brother Theo allowed him to develop into an innovative artist. Other members of the Van Gogh family have helped to ensure that everyone has access to the Van Gogh Museum’s now world-famous collection. The exhibition Choosing Vincent introduces the genesis of the museum’s core collection through the eyes of Vincent, his brother Theo, Theo’s wife Jo, and their son Vincent. It shows clearly which choices helped determine the course of history. Choosing Vincent offers visitors an accessible introduction to the decisive moments in the lives of the four protagonists. What would you have done if you had stood in their shoes?

‘Engineer’ Vincent van Gogh shortly before the opening of the Van Gogh Museum in 1973. Photograph: Jan Versnel/MAI

Collected with love

Choosing Vincent. Portrait of a Family History allows visitors to see and hear how a family collection grew to become a world-famous museum collection, from Vincent’s early years through to the foundation of the museum. The exhibition uses artworks by Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries, previously unexhibited documents, family objects and an enlightening multimedia guide to explore this extraordinary history. Choosing Vincent starts with Vincent’s youth in Brabant, and explores periods such as his formative years as an artist in Paris, where he lived with his brother Theo. In addition to taking charge of Vincent’s works, Theo also collected art by their contemporaries. After the death of the brothers, Theo’s wife Jo van Gogh-Bonger and her son Vincent – also known as ‘the engineer’ – tirelessly dedicated themselves to raising the international profile of the collection, which has been on display at the Van Gogh Museum since 1973. Vincent’s family members are still closely involved with the Van Gogh Museum and the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, which manages the collection. One of these family members is Janne Heling (1987), who is committed to the legacy as Chair of the Foundation. ‘Thanks to the dream of my great-grandfather, ‘the engineer’, to keep the collection intact and make it accessible for all, I myself am now able to – and do – choose Vincent. I think that is very special indeed.’ Willem van Gogh (1953), the eldest great-grandchild of Theo and Jo, is involved with the Vincent van Gogh Foundation as an ambassador for the Van Gogh Museum.‘ It is a privilege to be so closely involved with Vincent and his brother’s legacy.’

World-famous collection

With some 200 paintings, 500 drawings, 30 prints and more than 800 letters, the Van Gogh Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh. This anniversary exhibition allows visitors to experience this world-class collection like never before. Lisa Smit, curator of Choosing Vincent: ‘We not only show iconic paintings and drawings by Vincent, such as Almond Blossom, but also previously unexhibited pieces: his birth certificate, Jo van Gogh-Bonger’s diary, and a portrait of engineer Vincent van Gogh, which was restored especially for the exhibition.’Knowledge gained from a number of the museum’s long-term research projects is combined in this appealing and accessible exhibition, which is ideal to visit with your (chosen) family. Choosing Vincent. Portrait of a Family History is on display in the Exhibition Wing at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from 10 February to 10 April 2023.


The exhibition is accompanied by Choosing Vincent. From Family Collection to Van Gogh Museum. This lavishly illustrated book, which includes newly discovered historical material, documents the multifaceted history of the collection that features world-famous works by Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries. It also outlines the genesis of the Van Gogh Museum, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023. Uitgeverij THOTH Bussum, € 24.95, available in Dutch and English.


This exhibition was supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the museum’s main partners: the VriendenLoterij, ASML and DHL. The exhibition was also supported by the Vincent van Gogh Foundation and Van Lanschot Kempen.

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