After Vincent van Gogh died, his work got a new lease on life. During his lifetime, Vincent had sent paintings and drawings to his brother Theo in the hope that Theo would be able to sell them. The works would then serve to pay Theo back for all the help he had given Vincent in providing him with a monthly allowance and sending him materials. But during his lifetime, Vincent sold only one painting.
By the time Vincent died, Theo had amassed an enormous collection. He probably owned about 365 of his brother’s works. Theo – who had the necessary experience, being an art dealer – took responsibility for carefully looking after the collection and doing everything he could to establish his brother's name. But his early death, a mere six months after Vincent’s, put an end to that. From then on, it was Theo's widow, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, who kept the collection together. And she did so with great energy. She endeavoured to make sure works stayed together or were sold at good prices by reputable dealers in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
Gradually, her efforts began to bear fruit. Interest in Vincent’s work grew steadily, and many sales followed. Jo held a successful Van Gogh exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1905. In 1914, she published Vincent’s letters. She sold one of her favourite works, Sunflowers, to the National Gallery in London in 1923. She kept about 200 others, however, including paintings that have since become world-famous, like The Bedroom, Wheatfield with Crows, and The Potato Eaters.
When Jo died in 1925, her collection passed to Vincent Willem. While he did not originally wish to be closely involved with the collection, he nevertheless kept it together and loaned many works out for exhibition in the Netherlands and abroad. After a long-term loan to the Stedelijk Museum, the idea grew of building a museum especially to house the collection. In 1973, the Van Gogh Museum opened on Museumplein in Amsterdam, where it still stands today, following a recent renovation.