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Vincent van Gogh, from (1853-1879) Part One.

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Introduction.

Everyone heard of the tragic story of the now-famous painter Vincent van Gogh born on 30 March 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands, and died on 29 July 1890, aged 37, at Auvers-Sur-Oise, France. Today his paintings are sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Among all the impressionists, Vincent van Gogh became a myth; hundreds of books have been published to answer his life’s mysteries. His relationship with his younger brother is also a touching brotherly love story; only by removing all the myths built around him will the real Vincent be revealed.

Vincent; The Real Man.

Vincent’s Parents

Vincent is the second child of 7 children of Anna Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh. Anna Carbentus lost his first son at birth, named Vincent Millen van Gogh. A year later, his second son was born, and they gave him again the name of Theodorus’s father and his brother’s name Vincent Millen van Gogh.

Anna Carbentus van Gogh was the daughter of the King’s bookbinder and came from a prosperous family in The Hague; She married her sister Cornelia (10 years her junior) and her husband’s older brother Theodorus. They were both in their thirties. They moved to Groot-Zundert. Anna was not a physically affectionate mother but was devoted to her family and helped her husband with his work. Anna was an amateur artist with a talent for drawing and had a famous Flemish artist visiting her home. She shared her love with all her children; Vincent was an avid reader, he loved books, and he did not show any specific talent or interest in drawing. Anna was strict with the family to uphold the high social standard of their position to the children.

Theodorus was the son of a clergyman; following his father’s footsteps, he became a pastor of the Dutch Reform church in Holland. He was the pastor in several small churches at G root-Zundert, Etten, Helvoit, and last Numen. He had a happy marriage and six children, with Vincent being the oldest. Theodorus had great expectations from his older son Vincent, hoping to have him follow in his footsteps to be a pastor. Pastor Theodorus was well respected and loved pastor.

Vincent’s first 15 years.

Vincent was a sensitive, introverted, and melancholic child; he was taught at home by his mother and a governess, and in 1860, he was enrolled in the village school. In 1864, he was placed in a boarding school at Zevenbergen, in 1866, his parents sent him to the middle school in Tilburg, and Vincent was heartbroken about being away from home. His mother was a great supporter of Vincent’s artistic talent. His interest in Art began at a young age. Constant Cornelis Huijsmans, a successful artist in Paris, taught the students at Tilburg. His philosophy was to reject technique in favor of capturing the impressions of things, particularly nature or everyday objects. In March 1868, his parent faced financial difficulty, and Vincent was called back home; he was 15 years old.

Vincent
Vincent van Gogh photo 1866

Vincent’s introduction to Art.

Goupil and Company

In July 1869, Vincent’s studies toward becoming a Pastor became a Financial burden on his family; he had to leave his studies short. He went to work for his uncle at the Hague, his uncle was also named Vincent, but he was called Cent for short. He was a successful Art dealer and partner at Goupil and Company, the most significant art dealership in Europe. Cent was grooming Vincent to take over the company when he retired. Vincent started as an apprentice clerk; he spoke four languages; English, French, German and native Dutch, and learning quickly moved to the front of the store in a couple of years. These were Vincent’s happiest times.

In 1973 Theo was going to follow Vincent and start his apprenticeship at Goupil and Company. Vincent was looking forward to working and living with his favorite brother. But Vincent was transferred to the offices of the London branch. He was twenty years old and on his own for the first time, away from family and friends. Once in London, after living in several houses in and around London, Van Gogh finally settled into a room at 87 Hackford Road Brixton. He shared the residence with his widowed landlady Mrs. Ursula Loyer, her daughter Eugenie Loyer, and Samuel Plowman. Nineteen-century London was extremely crowded, with slumps where sewers ran on the street, where the disgusting smell could be smelled miles away.

While in London, Vincent enjoyed exploring the city on foot and visited many of London’s cultural institutions and parks. He also walked to his office in Covent Garden from his house, passing by London’s poorest and most disadvantaged population. In contrast to the conspicuous wealth of the City of London and Westminster, there was a massive underclass of desperately poor Londoners within a short range of the more affluent areas. The single most notorious slum was St. Giles; St. Giles was defined by its prostitutes, gin shops, secret alleyways, and overcrowded tenements. The East End of London was another slump by the Docklands along the Thames and the River Lea,

Vincent must have been significantly affected by these sights; he discovered the famous writer Charles Dickens, seeing human misery. Vincent bought an illustration of Dickens by Lukes Fildes, an empty chair pushed away from the author’s desk. He was significantly affected by the emptiness of it; later on, he painted empty chairs to show “absence.”

Vincent van Gogh
Luke Fildes Dickens Empty Chair 1870

Vincent’s first great love.

Eugenie Loyer, daughter of his landlady, was 19 years old. She besotted Vincent, and he kept his feelings to himself for a year. As all love-struck, he worked hard to hide his emotions but finally mustered the courage to declare his love and proposed marriage. He was devasted when she told him she was secretly engaged to a Samuel plowman. Vincent does not accept the rejection with grace; he is relentlessly pursuing Eugenie to the point that Madame Loyer asks him to move out of the house. Something changed in him; he became brutal, argumentative, and combative. He retreated to his faith and away from everything else.

At the time, Vincent was on his way to being a successful art dealer like his uncle. He was in his early twenties with a salary of 90 pounds a year, three times the salary of a worker in London, with a great future. The rejection of his love gave him a blow he could not overcome. He was resentful of having been rejected by the great love of his life, so he began to read the bible obsessively. His uncle understanding his disappointment, had him transferred to their headquarters in Paris. And promoted him to head of pictures and chief of sales.

Still, Vincent, the golden boy, rather than pushing sales, argued and questioned clients’ tastes. The situation was getting out of hand when at Christmas, the busiest time of the year at work, Vincent left for Holland without any notice. At his return, with no other option, he was asked to resign from Goupil and Co. l receiving 3-month pay.

Vincent’s return to God and Religion

Vincent fell deeper into despair; he looked for solace by going to the salvation army meetings and hanging around soup kitchens and prayer halls. He read the bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. After being dismissed from his job, he returned to England, where he found a job in a private boarding school for boys owned by Mr. Stoke in Ramsgate. He teaches French, German, arithmetic, and dictation. The position was unpaid, but he received board and lodging. The school was right out of Dickens’s pages. Soon the school closed, and Mr. Stoke promised a paying position to Vincent if he would move to Isleworth. Vincent walked the one-hundredth mile in three days.

At Isleworth, there was no job available. Fortunately, Vincent met Rev.Thomas Slade Jone on Tuckenham road; he offered him a teaching position at his school. Vincent mentioned to Rev. Jone his aspiration to be a minister. With the support of Rev Jone, Vincent was accepted as a minister’s assistant and had the opportunity to give his first sermon at the Richmond Methodist Chapel in the spring of 1886. That Christmas, he left for Etten, where his parents moved, and Vincent did not return to England. Back home, his parents find him a job as a bookseller at Dordrecht. Vincent committed himself to translating the bible into four languages simultaneously, but again unhappy and unsatisfied, he quit.

Vincent chooses a Monastic lifestyle.

Vincent’s parents noticed the significant changes in their son; he lived a monastic life, eating little, being frugal in everything, and admonishing any excess. Every he tried his hand at was a failure; he continued praying obsessively after each failure. The other endeavor would have seemed hopeless, regardless of how hard he prayed. His father arranged, in 1877, to send his son to live with his uncle Johannes Stricker, a respected theologian, in Amsterdam. Van Gogh had to spend a year preparing for the University of Amsterdam theology entrance examination; he worked with passion and diligence, giving himself physical acts of violence if he did not get it right. In July 1878, he took and failed Greek and Latin; he refused to retake them and left his uncle’s house in July 1878.

Vincent in the Borinage and his First Collection of Drawings

Not giving up on his religious calling, he found a Protestant missionary school in Laken near Brussels. He took a three-month course and was sent to Petit Wasme at the Borinage in Belgium. The Borinage was a coal mining region. Men, and women, young and old, indiscriminately worked long hours in dangerous conditions. In the pits, miners’ worked in teams and were paid per full wagon. Sometimes an entire household would descend to collect the most for their paycheck. Housing was small, unsanitary, and crowded, with all extended family living together to save on rent. (Germinal by Zola)

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  • Miners in the pit.
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  • Coal Minier
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Vincent van Gogh.

Catholicism is the main religion in Belgium. Vincent, in the Borinage, had a small protestant community. He did not want to preach only; he wanted to live like them, to integrate with the community really; his commitment took him to the messianic extreme. He gave up all his possessions, moved out of the house the Mission rents for him to a sick lady, and even chose to go down the mine to help out. He moves to a small hut sleeping on straws on the floor with no heat, eating little, and continues self-mortification to ask forgiveness from God and pray to help him lighten human suffering. When Reverent Rochedieu from the Mission society came to see him and evaluate his progress, he was shocked by Vincent’s miserable state, horrendous living conditions, and poor hygiene. Vincent was accused of diminishing the dignity of the priesthood. And was one again dismissed. They called him the Christ of the coal mine.d.

His family was highly concerned about Vincent’s health and mental state. The family worried about their daughters’ prospects if Vincent’s mental state was in doubt. They arranged for Vincent to go to a Psychiatric institution in Gail voluntarily. But Vincent refuses to go. Vincent returned to the mining region in 1880; he decided to pay a visit to Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton (1 May 1827 – 5 July 1906), a 19th-century French naturalist painter. Jules Breton is one of the primary artists who painted the beauty and idyllic vision of rural existence. After walking to Brussel to his home, Vincent gives up on meeting him and returns to Cuesmes.

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Vincent, who spent two years at the Borinage, had lost all clarity on the purpose of his life. He had gone to the furthest limits of his faith to help the impoverished and felt he helped no one; Vincent was searching for his purpose, struggling to follow his dedication to his faith and his new find passion for being an artist. In a letter to Theo, he wrote his torments about being misunderstood.

A caged bird in spring knows quite well that he might serve some end; he is well aware that there is something for him to do…What is it? He does not quite remember. Then some vague ideas occur to him, and he says to himself, ‘The others build their nests and lay their eggs and bring up their little ones’; and he knocks his head against the bars of the cage. But the cage remains, and the bird is maddened by anguish.

‘Look at that lazy animal,’ says another bird in passing, ‘he seems to be living at ease.’

Yes, the prisoner lives, he does not die; there are no outward signs of what passes within him—his health is good, he is more or less gay when the sun shines. But then the season of migration comes, and attacks of melancholia—‘But he has everything he wants,’ say the children that tend him in his cage. He looks through the bars at the overcast sky when a thunderstorm is gathering, and inwardly he rebels against his fate. ‘I am caged, I am caged, and you tell me that I do not want anything, fools! You think I have everything I need! Oh! I beseech you liberty, that I may be a bird like other birds!’

A certain idle man resembles this idle bird.

By the time he moved from the Borinage to Brussels in the fall of 1880, van Gogh was committed to be an artist.