Vincent van Gogh 1853-1890 BACK

The following excerpt was taken from
Van Gogh's Van Goghs :
Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

by Richard Kendall

Translated from the Dutch by Michael Hayle

The Life of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 in Zundert, a village in the southern province of North Brabant. He was the eldest son of the Reverend Theodorus van Gogh (1822-1885) and Anna Cornelia Carbentus (1819-1907), whose other children were Vincent's sisters Elisabeth (Lies), Anna, and Wil, and his brothers Theo and Cor. Little is known about Vincent's early years other than that he was a quiet child with no obvious artistic talent. He himself would later look back on his happy childhood with great pleasure.

Van Gogh received a fragmentary education: one year at the village school in Zundert, two years at a boarding school in Zevenbergen, and eighteen months at a high school in Tilburg. At sixteen he began working at the Hague gallery of the French art dealers Goupil et Cie., in which his uncle Vincent was a partner. His brother Theo, who was born on i May 1857, later worked for the same firm. In 1873 Goupil's transferred Vincent to London, and two years later they moved him to Paris, where he lost all ambition to become an art dealer. Instead, he immersed himself in religion, threw out his modern, worldly books, and became "daffy with piety," in the words of his sister Elisabeth. He took little interest in his work, and was dismissed from his job at the beginning of 1876.

Van Gogh then took a post as an assistant teacher in England, but, disappointed by the lack of prospects, returned to Holland at the end of the year. He now decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a clergyman. Although disturbed by his fanaticism and odd behavior, his parents agreed to pay for the private lessons he would need to gain admission to the university. This proved to be another false start. Van Gogh abandoned the lessons, and after brief training as an evangelist went to the Borinage coal-mining region in the south of Belgium. His ministry among the miners led him to identify deeply with the workers and their families. In 1879, however, his appointment was not renewed, and his parents despaired, regarding him as a social misfit. In an unguarded moment his father even spoke of committing him to a mental asylum.

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