Vincent van Gogh was born in Groot Zundert,
The Netherlands on 30 March 1853. Van Gogh's birth came one year to the day after
his mother gave birth to a first, stillborn child--also named Vincent. There has
been much speculation about Vincent van Gogh suffering later psychological trauma
as a result of being a "replacement child" and having a deceased brother
with the same name and same birth date. This theory remains unsubstantiated, however,
and there is no actual historical evidence to support it.
Van Gogh was the son of Theodorus van Gogh (1822-85), a pastor of the Dutch Reformed
Church, and Anna Cornelia Carbentus (1819-1907). Unfortunately there is virtually
no information about Vincent van Gogh's first ten years. Van Gogh attended a boarding
school in Zevenbergen for two years and then went on to attend the King Willem
II secondary school in Tilburg for two more. At that time, in 1868, Van Gogh left
his studies at the age of 15 and never returned.
Vincent van Gogh joined the firm Goupil & Cie., a firm of art dealers in The
Hague. The Van Gogh family had long been associated with the art world--Vincent's
uncles, Cornelis ("Uncle Cor") and Vincent ("Uncle Cent"),
were art dealers. His younger brother, Theo, spent his adult life working as an
art dealer and, as a result, had a tremendous influence on Vincent's later career
as an artist.
Vincent was relatively successful as an
art dealer and stayed with Goupil & Cie. for seven more years. In 1873 he
was transferred to the London branch of the company and quickly became enamoured
with the cultural climate of England. In late August, Vincent moved to 87 Hackford
Road and boarded with Ursula Loyer and her daughter Eugenie. Vincent is said to
have been romantically interested in Eugenie, but many early biographers mistakenly
misname Eugenie for her mother, Ursula. To add to the decades-long confusion over
the names, recent evidence suggests that Vincent wasn't in love with Eugenie at
all, but rather a Dutch woman named Caroline Haanebeek. The truth remains inconclusive.
Vincent van Gogh would remain in London for two more years.
During that time he visited the many art galleries and museums and became a great
admirer of British writers such as George Eliot and Charles Dickens. Van Gogh
was also a great admirer of the British engravers whose works illustrated such
magazines as The Graphic. These illustrations inspired and influenced Van Gogh
in his later life as an artist.
The relationship between
Vincent and Goupil's became more strained as the years passed and in May of 1875
he was transferred to the Paris branch of the firm. It became clear as the year
wore on that Vincent was no longer happy dealing in paintings that had little
appeal for him in terms of his own personal tastes. Vincent left Goupil's in late
March, 1876 and decided to return to England where his two years there had been,
for the most part, very happy and rewarding.
Vincent van Gogh began teaching at Rev. William P. Stokes' school in Ramsgate.
He was responsible for 24 boys between the ages of 10 and 14. His letters suggest
that Vincent enjoyed teaching. After that he began teaching at another school
for boys, this one lead by Rev. T. Slade Jones in Isleworth. In his spare time
Van Gogh continued to visit galleries and admire the many great works of art he
found there. He also devoted himself to his Bible study--spending many hours reading
and rereading the Gospel. The summer of 1876 was truly a time of religious transformation
for Vincent van Gogh. Although raised in a religious family, it wasn't until this
time that he seriously began to consider devoting his life to the Church.