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Wil van Gogh

Willemina Jacoba van Gogh

Willemina Jacoba van Gogh (16 March 1862, in Zundert – 17 May 1941, in Ermelo),[1] called Wil, was the youngest sister of the artist Vincent van Gogh and the art dealer Theo van Gogh.[2] She was amongst the earliest feminists.

During the first part of her life Wil van Gogh served her family and others, nursing the sick. After the death of her brothers in 1890, she obtained a modest job in a hospital. There she engaged in the committee to organise the "National exhibition of women's work" (Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid), 1898. This was a highly successful enterprise and funds raised from the exhibition, 20,000 Dutch Guilders, served to establish the Dutch national bureau for women's work.

No sources record what happened afterwards, but on 4 December 1902 Wil van Gogh was interned and later transferred to the House Veldwijk, a psychiatric institution at Ermelo. The diagnosis of dementia praecox, on which this measure was based, was in those days equivalent to a death sentence. Aslyum records later noted: "There has been no significant change in the condition of this long-standing patient. She remains solitary and withdrawn, rarely speaks and generally does not respond to questions. She spends her entire day in the same place in the lounge, sitting in her chair and gazing blankly at her surroundings. She has refused food for years and has to be fed artificially ..."[3]

Wil van Gogh remained at Ermelo for almost four decades before she died.

Whether she was mentally ill or not is nowadays difficult to prove.[4] Renate Berger asserts that Wil van Gogh shared the fate of many "sisters of well-known men" at the time.[5][3]


  1. ^ Correct name and dates according to Nederland's Patriciaat 50, 1964, p. 182
  2. ^ "Biographical & historical context: The immediate family circle". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters.  
  3. ^ a b Visser, Yuri (April 2003). "Willemina Jacoba van Gogh" (in Dutch). Het Kontakt (archived 
  4. ^ Angier, Natalie (21 December 1991). "New Explanation Given For van Gogh's Agonies".  
  5. ^ Berger 1985


  • Anonymous (initialled "H.H.H." and "W.F.d.C.H."): Van Gogh, 's-Gravenhage, Nederland's Patriciaat 50, 1964, pp. 171–183
  • Berger, Renate: Willemina Jacoba van Gogh (1862–1941): "Du bist sehr tapfer, liebe Schwester", in: Schwestern berühmter Männer. Zwölf biographische Porträts, ed. Luise F. Pusch, Insel, Frankfurt am Main, 1985, pp. 453–485 ISBN 3-458-32496-8

External links

  • Yuri Visser: Willemina Jacoba van Gogh, in Dutch
  • Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of Willemina
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