Monday, May 13, 2013

The Siblings (for Theo and Nannerl)

I've been wanting to write this blogpost for some time. We all admire artists, often a whole lot better once they are dead and gone. But we often forget the price paid by their family members... the ones who invisibly served as gatekeepers to a great spirit truly gaining the opportunity to express itself. Behind many creative people, you will find parents who financed music lessons, sisters and brothers who paid the groceries, or perhaps merely through their presence, became the bridges to excellence.

Theo Van Gogh idolized his older brother Vincent and financial supported him. It is known that the only Van Gogh that sold in the artist's lifetime was bought by his younger brother, but how many people realize that we owe Theo a great debt for each and every coveted Van Gogh that now sells for millions at auctions. Theo bought Vincent's art supplies and regularly sent him financial means to support himself, but Theo also encouraged the development of his artistic style through regular feedback on Vincent sketches and plans and also by introducing him to other prominent artists of the era such as Paul Gauguin, C├ęzanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. Vincent van Gogh's story seems so sad and lonely, until you see that one Theo is probably worth a million admirers. Theo van Gogh died about six months after his now famous brother, almost as if subconsciously he realized that his task here on earth was done.

Since his father was a music teacher, it is unlikely that the incredible music talent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have gone untapped. However, it might not have been discovered at such an early age, if there had not been another, slightly older child in the household who was just beginning with piano lessons. Mozart worshipped his sister, Maria Anna, a.k.a Nannerl and spent much time watching her playing and practicing, which eventually led to his own very early improvisations on the same instrument, in an attempt to copy her. Wolfgang and Nannerl played together in public until she reached marrying age, and although none of her work survived, it is known that she also composed music and that her brother had a high regard for her efforts. It can be argued that it was Nannerl's talent and mischievous influence, as much as their father's lessons that helped shape Mozart's incredible career as a composer.