OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

MEETING # 16314:00 P.M.March 2, 2000


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by Rex W. Cranmer LL.B.Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


Rex Cranmer is a native of Redlands, attending the public schools through high school, and pursuing his college studies at Stanford University where he earned his B. A. as a pre-legal student and his LL. B. from Stanford Law School in 1943.

He practiced law in Los Angeles and San Bernardino until 1948 when he opened his office as a sole practitioner in Redlands. In 1973 Gov. Reagan appointed him judge of the Redlands Municipal Court and a year later elevated him to the San Bernardino Superior Court where he served until retirement in 1987.

He married Jean Larson, whom he met at Stanford, in 1944, and they have raised two daughters and one son.

He has served on the Redlands School Board and on boards of other community organizations. He has been a member of the 1st Congregational Church of Redlands for over 60 years and has been a Kiwanian since 1948.


The bride was Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, the two brothers were Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. Almost everyone has some acquaintance with the name Vincent Van Gogh and knows that he was an artist. Most know that Vincent had a brother, Theo. But Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger has but little recognition. Johanna was the bride of Theo and I hope to show that she is deserving of much greater acclaim than has been forthcoming from the art critics and historians. Van Gogh’s Van Goghs refers to the largest single collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s works, which are displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.As you probably know, but I will remind you, Vincent Van Gogh was born in The Netherlands in 1853, to Rev. Theodore Van Gogh and his wife, Anna, and was the eldest of their 6 children. He received very little formal education and at 16 was employed in a Hague art gallery in which his uncle was a partner. The gallery employed him until he was 24 years old when he was discharged. He turned to studying for the ministry and after a period of training was appointed as an evangelist and assigned to a mining district in Belgium. In 1879, his appointment was not renewed. We can’t talk about Vincent without including his brother, Theo, who was born 5 years after him. A brotherly bond developed between them and lasted throughout their lifetimes. Theo was also employed by their uncle’s gallery 4 years after Vincent and worked his way to an appointment as manager of his employer’s prestigious Paris gallery and remained there until his death. The failure of his reassignment as an evangelist caused Vincent to follow advice from Theo who urged him to study and train to become an artist. His decision was not well received by his family who declined to furnish further supportAnd Theo who continued to support Vincent for the rest of his life assumed the burden. Vincent studied at the academy in Brussels for 9 months then moved in with his parents where he continued to practice and study drawing. Vincent then moved to The Hague where he continued his training from an artist cousin by marriage. This arrangement continued until the cousin broke off the lessons because Vincent had taken up with a prostitute and her illegitimate son. Vincent was a very compassionate man when he encountered someone in distress and in disregards to his own needs would often give clothing or funds to unfortunates. This tendency resulted often in Vincent’s appealing to Theo for additional funds and grumbling when Theo declined to fund his charity. When he was 30 he left the prostitute and concentrated on his drawing and commenced to paint as well using peasants for subjects probably because he could not afford to hire models.At age 33, Vincent moved in with Theo in Paris and for the first time witnessed modern art with all its color and freedom in expression. Theo had developed a knowledge of and appreciation for modern art despite the prevailing view that only the classical romantic style approved by the academy of France was acceptable art. Through Theo, Vincent became acquainted with leading impressionist and post impressionist painters such as Gauguin, Bernard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac and Seurat. He was able to paint with these artists and learned to abandon the "brown soup" style of his Netherlands compositions and to develop a remarkable talent in the use of bright colors.In 1888 at age 35 Vincent moved south to Arles where he gloried in the bright light which was reflected in his masterly landscapes and portraits. He envisioned a community of artists living in Provence and sharing techniques and criticisms to their mutual advantage, but only Paul Gauguin came to Arles and the relationship between them was stormy and contentious. At the end of 1888, Vincent suffered from mental illness and it culminated in the famous episode of his cutting off the lobe of his ear and presenting it to a prostitute. Meanwhile, we will take a look at Theo’s life. Theo had a friend from the Netherlands, Andries Bonger, who was also living in Paris. In 1885 the two were on a short holiday in Amsterdam where Andriese introduced Theo to his sister, Johanna and Theo was a goner. He saw her three more times on visits, but it wasn’t until the third visit in1887 that he summoned up the courage to declare his love to her and propose. She had another interest and turned Theo down. Theo commenced corresponding to her but she didn’t acknowledge his letters. In October 1888, Johanna visited Andriese in Paris and by chance ran into Theo. A mutual attraction toward each other blossomed and on December 10th they agreed to marry. It was planned to announce their betrothal in Amsterdam at the end of December but when Theo learned of Vincent’s ear episode he departed to Arles and wrote to Johanna to proceed with announcement without him. On April 13, 1889, they were married and took up residence in an apartment in Paris.Vincent made a quick recovery but suffered another illness and went back to the hospital where he stayed until the middle of January, 1889. He was readmitted two more times because of complaints by his neighbors. He finally voluntarily committed himself to an asylum at St. Remy, a small village outside of Arles where he was permitted to have his paints, and under supervision, continue his pursuit of art.Vincent remained in the asylum for a year and then decided to move to Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris on May 16, 1890. Here he was under the care of Dr. Paul Gachet who treated mental disease in Auvers and Paris. Dr. Gachet was also a painter of modest talent and collected paintings of the nouveau art school. The relationship between him and Vincent was warm and Vincent’s family held the doctor in high regard. While Vincent was in St. Remy Theo and Jo became parents of a baby boy in January 1890, and they named him Vincent Willem after his uncle. Theo had an appreciation and eye for modern art, which was not shared by his employer, and Theo’s practice of exhibiting the works of the new generation artists on the mezzanine of the gallery became a serious problem. Theo considered opening his own gallery but the financial requirements of that project overwhelmed him. Vincent who was so dependent on Theo’s support shared Theo’s uncertainty. In July, 1890, while Vincent was in a wheat field, he shot himself in the chest and in two days he died from the wound.The death of Vincent devastated Theo and he became so ill he was required to be placed in an asylum where he died in January, 1891, six months after his brother’s death.All during Vincent’s life as an artist, he sent the product of his efforts to Theo as a form of compensation for the support Theo provided. In Theo’s mind, Vincent was a genius and that his art would become recognized as masterful. Theo carefully stored all of Vincent’s works in his apartment, covering the walls with paintings and filling all available space with the rest. Vincent was a most prolific artist creating over 2000 paintings and drawings during the few years of his artist career., Also, Vincent and Theo engaged in voluminous correspondence and Jo found over 600 of Vincent’s letters in a cabinet.So Jo found herself a widow after 22 months of marriage with a one year old infant, living in an expensive Paris apartment filled with Vincent’s works, and no income or financial resources. She had had a short career as a teacher but with an infant to care for she decided to return to Holland and operate a boarding house. An appraisal of Vincent’s paintings was made resulting in an opinion that they were worth about 12 francs each. If the paintings were discarded the frames and crates of wood exceeded the value of the paintings. Jo's brother, Andriese, urged her to build a nest egg from the sale of the wood. Jo stubbornly refused because she believed in Theo’s prediction of the fame Vincent’s works would eventually be accorded. She arranged for all the paintings and drawings to be shipped to her in Holland. The letters she preserved with the intention of collating them for publication. Jo proved to have made the right decision for her support as her boarding house was a great success.Jo never lost sight of the monumental task of establishing the position of Vincent in the art world in vindication of Theo’s judgment. She sought and received the counsel of Vincent’s fellow artists and their assistance in arranging exhibitions of his works. Following their advice she agreed to sales of some of his paintings to enhance his reputation but retained many of his works to illustrate his development through periods of his career. At the outset the exhibitions displaying Vincent’s paintings did not cause much excitement, but as time went on the appreciation of his genius began to mount. One early sale is of particular interest, as Dr. Gachet purchased the self portrait which appears on the cover of this paper and the announcement of this meeting. The painting remained in the Gachet collection until 1949 when his son donated it to the Louvre.In addition to her efforts to expose the paintings, Jo struggled with task of sorting out the many letters to Theo, most of which were undated and required relating the events and description of his works in progress contained with other knowledge about his activities. Finally she was able to publish a three volume edition of the letters in 1903. The letters were a bonanza for the critics and historians and various other essayists, commentators, poets and philosophers. Other publications of the letters abounded throughout Western Europe.A growing interest in Art Nouveau inspired many writers to comment on the affect it did, or did not, have in the world of art. In Vincent’s lifetime, modern art was generally regarded as irresponsible expression and not art at all, but over the years an appreciation of its worth developed. In the 1890’s in France it was argued that modern artists were motivated by anarchy, decadence, and symbolism and the philosophy of the artist was of more concern than the art produced. After the publication of his letters, Vincent’s philosophy was argued endlessly in publications devoted to discussion of the artistic world.Gradually modern art was accepted as responsible art, and Van Gogh’s paintings received more favorable attention. The Netherlands was the first to accord significance to modern art, and then France and Germany. In England and America Van Gogh was not viewed as an accomplished artist, but rather as a lunatic and his paintings as shocking. The first Van Gogh exhibit in England was in 1910 and the reviewer termed it an insult. It was not until 1923 that his works received favorable comment. In America an exhibit in 1920 did not elicit much enthusiasm, but more and more support grew until 1935 and an exhibit had a triumphant tour throughout the United States and Canada as well.Today the excellence of Van Gogh’s ability has him as one of the foremost of world painters and his works have not been neglected in the market place. For example, a portrait of Dr. Gachet done by Vincent when he was a patient first sold in 1897, for 58 French francs, equal in value in terms of U. S. 1995 dollars in the sum of $1056; and in 1990, it sold for the sum of $82,500,000, equivalent to $96,197,398 1995 U. S. dollars.There has been much interest over the years by medical experts in diagnosing Van Gogh’s mental illness. At the time he was treated in the asylums his doctors labeled it as epilepsy. Since then, the experts have studied his works, letters, and life and what few medical records were made during his treatment and have concluded variously that he was afflicted with depression, schizophrenia, or perhaps digitalis toxicity. I am pleased to offer the latest diagnosis brought to my attention by my neighbor and our good member "Tip" Haseltine, which was published in a note in a 1999 issue of Harvard Magazine. It reported that Dr. Sharam Koshbin, associate professor of neurology, had determined Vincent was suffering from a form of epilepsy known as Geshwind’s syndrome, identified by Dr. Geshwind in the early 1970s. That syndrome was characterized as a personality disorder including 5 traits: hypergraphia (i. e. extensive production of words or graphic material); hyper-religiousity; unstable sexual behavior; intermittent aggressiveness; and "stickiness" (i. e. clinging behavior).The letters Vincent wrote to Theo were not simple notes but multipage essays and I will give you a sample of a small portion of one written from the Hague July 31, 1882. He wrote: Vincent to Theo (July 31 l882)

As far as I understand it, we of course agree perfectly about black in nature. Absolute black does not really exist. But like white, it is present in almost every colour, and forms the endless variety of greys,--different in tone and strength. So that in nature one really sees nothing but those tones or shades.There are but three fundamental colours—red , yellow and blue; "composites" are orange, green and purple.By adding black and some white one gets the endless varieties of greys—red-grey, yellow-grey,, blue-grey, green-grey, orange-grey, violet-grey. To say , for instance, how many green-greys there are is impossible, there are endless varieties.But the whole chemistry of colours is not more complicated than those few simple rules. And to have a clear notion of this is worth more than seventy different colours of paint,--since with those three principal and black and white, one can make more that seventy tones and varieties. The colourist is he who seeing a colour in nature knows at once how to analyse it, and can say for instance: that green-grey is yellow with black and blue, etc. In other words, someone who is able to find the greys of nature on his palette. In order to make notes from nature, or to make little sketches, a strongly developed feeling for outline is absolutely necessary as well as for strengthening the composition subsequently.But I believe one does not acquire this without effort, rather in the first place by observation, and then especially by strenuous work and research, and particular study of anatomy and perspective is also needed. ****************I have attacked that old whopping of a pollard willow, and I think it is the best of the watercolours: a gloomy landscape—that dead tree near a stagnate pool covered with reeds, in the distance a car shed of the Rhine Railroad, where the tracks cross each other; dingy black buildings, then green meadows, a cinder path, and a sky with shifting clouds, grey with a single bright white border, and the depth of blue where the clouds for an instant are parted. In short, I wanted to make it as the signal man in his smock and with his little red flag must see and feel it when he thinks: "it is gloomy weather today."

Theo and Johanna corresponded during their acquaintance and translations of those letters first appeared in The Art Newspaper published in London, for October 1999. One letter from Theo explained the relationship between the brothers as follows: Theo to Johanna, July 27, 1887

**************Now I want to tell you something that has affected me very deeply. As you know, I have a brother five years older than I, who lives with me and is a painter. Fifteen years ago he too worked for Goupil and had a promising career ahead of him. He took me under his wing when I was starting out (even though he lived in London and I in The Hague) and it is to him that I owe my love of art. I adored him more than anything imaginable and we were; extremely close to one another for several years. However his life underwent a radical transformation and only later was I to experience myself the battle he was waging against scepticism. It was like a violent storm breaking above him. The outcome was that he obeyed to the letter what the Bible says, "sell that what thou hast and follow me". At first he did so as the church intended, but it was impossible for someone with his great mind to stop at that. He sought to live for others and by sacrificing himself managed to do a great deal for the poor and unfortunate. But everyone without exception, people who are considered pious, those he himself loved dearly, even his father and mother, condemned him for his disregard of more temporal matters and his refusal to yield to society as it is , be it at the expense of what was best in him.It was hard for him ands for me too for though I didn’t share the experience of this profound change in his view of life, I empathise with him in many respects and tried to help him whenever I could. It was hard because he felt the world was barren, and it would have driven him to despair had he not been able to pursue his studies with unflagging energy and had not found in art a more satisfying outlet than that he had previously found in his religious studies. Perhaps you’ll think that what I am telling you about him has nothing to do with us, at least it will give you a glimpse into my heart.

Now what are Van Gogh’s Van Goghs? They are the collection of Van Gogh’s works which were preserved by Johanna at Theo’s death, less sales made by her during her lifetime. She died in 1925 and the collection passed to her son, Vincent Willem, who took over its care and preservation.He was not an artist but an engineer who had a highly successful practice. In 1930 he allowed the collection to be placed and exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum where it remained until it was sold to the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation in 1962. Vincent Willem, known as the Engineer, served as head of the Foundation and assiduously worked to construct a building for the collection. In 1973 a museum building was finished and the collection housed therein. The museum structure was designed to serve an estimated 80,000 visitors per year, but in the 80s and 90s the popularity of the exhibit attracted several times that number to the attendance in 1997 of over 1 million. When it became apparent the museum must be expanded funds were raised and plans drafted, and in 1998 construction of a new wing was commenced. That led to an unprecedented tour of some 200 paintings to the United States for exhibition, first at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C. and then to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The response was overwhelming and in Los Angeles during the last week of the tour, the gallery remained open 24 hours a day.What a marvelous contribution to our culture was the determination of Johanna to follow what she knew to be Theo’s dream! I shudder to think how much poorer we would be if she had taken her brother’s advice to scrap the paintings and letters left by Theo.


  1.  Cooperstein, Claire JOHANNA, A NOVEL OF THE VAN GOGH FAMILY Scribners, New York 1999

  2. De la Faille, J. B. THE WORKS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH, (As revised by Committee formed by Secretary of Education, Art and Science in The Hague) William Morrow & Co. New York 1970

  3. Hulsker, Jan VINCENT AND THEO VAN GOGH, (Translated to English by the author and edited by James M. Miller.), Fuller Publications, Ann Arbor 1990

  4. Roskill, Mark THE LETTERS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH, (From 1927 translation published by Constable. Includes MEMOIR OF VINCENT

  5. VAN GOGH by Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, 1913.), Anthenan, New York 1963

  6. Saltzman, Cynthia PORTRAIT OF DR. GACHET Penguin Books 1998

  7.  Exhibition Catalog, VAN GOGH’S VAN GOGHS (Includes THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM; A HISTORY OF THE COLLECTION by John Leighton; THE LIFE OF VINCENT VAN GOGH by Sjaar Vam Heugten.), National Gallery of Art Washington D. C.. 1998

  8. 1999 V. G. Bulletin No. 6 THE NEW VAN GOGH MUSEUM, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

  9. The Art Newspaper, October, 1999 No. 96, International Edition VAN GOGH’S LAST DAYS AND SUICIDE AS DESCRIBED BY HIS BROTHER, Umberto Allimunde London

  10. Harvard Magazine January-February, 1999, VAN GOGH’S MALADY

  11. Right Now from Harvard Magazine 617 495 0324

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