Genius painter – troubled soul, Vincent Van Gogh is nowadays, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most famous and appreciated artists in the world.
His style and works are so unique and even easy to recognize: bold vivid colors with strong brushwork that really express nothing but raw and real emotions.
Seeing how much a Van Gogh piece is worth today, it’s hard to imagine that the painter sold just a piece of work during his short, intensely lived life. But, not having their genius acknowledged and appreciated, seems to be the fate of all ahead of their time.
You should know that despite having lived such a short and troubled life, being mentally ill, and dealing with all his anxieties, Vincent Van Gogh created more than 900 paintings in the span of a mere 10 years.
And in his own words, he wrote about himself that “. . . I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate, and feeling nowhere so much myself a stranger as in my family and country.” (Letter 459a, from 1886).
And he was indeed both an adventurer and wanderer. He lived in more than twenty cities in four countries: The Netherlands, Great Britain, Belgium, and France.
How and where did he live, created, and felt at home? Let’s find out by following In the footsteps of Van Gogh: 20 Places where Vincent lived.
It makes perfect sense to follow Vincent’s life by starting with his birthplace, the Netherlands.
His heart was always at home here. Vincent is known for loving the fields and villages and the ones from his own country were dear and known to him. And although a great part of life in life at home was struggling with failure to succeed as an artist and deteriorating relations with his father, none of it mattered as meadows, little cottages, and gardens were the image the painter knew and treasured as home.
A romantic idea about its birthplace has always followed the artist. And for good reason as his early days of childhood were pleasant in the family and the village, with the community around the parsonage, and the church and his beloved solitary walks around the fields. This habit and love for nature will follow Vincent throughout his entire life.
And if you are wondering if any of the beloved spaces are still around for you to visit, the parsonage where he grew up is nowadays a museum dedicated to Van Gogh’s life and art.
From 1864 to 1866, Vincent attended Jan Provily Boarding School. Not his most cherished moments as he felt that he didn’t receive the best education there while feeling abandoned at the boarding school.
The building where Jan Provily was is still around but not a school anymore.
3. Tilburg (1866-1868)
Vincent’s time in Tilburg coincides with his period at King William II’s secondary school and boarding. And this is the place where the artist received ample drawing lessons.
The School’s impressive building which was initially intended as a palace now houses the very room Vincent took drawing classes, a multimedia center where you can experience the why and how he was taught.
4. The Hague (1869-1873 and 1881-1883)
Hague was home to Vincent twice along his life and several times for shorter periods.
This is where he became the youngest clerk at Goupil & Cie art dealership. This position was perfectly suited for the artist as it allowed him personal contact with the art world and the artists of the time. Later, Vincent moved to the London Office of the company.
But, his second time in Hague is the one period related best to his debut as an artist. It is here that he took lessons in drawing, and got his first paid commission for drawing the city views. The reality is that while Vincent dedicated himself entirely to learning and creating, the outside reality clashed with his views and he depended on the financial aid his brother Theo offered.
Hague is also the place where he got involved with his beloved prostitute Sien, whom he met on the streets and who caused the estrangement between the two brothers.
Wherever you walk in Hague you will follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh. You can spot the commemorative plaque at Plaats 20, where the offices of Goupil & Cie were, to the book stalls at the Binnenhof, where he bought prints and books.
Although Vincent never lived in Helvoirt, the little rural area is where on numerous occasions, he would come and visit his family.
Today it is part of the Van Gogh National Park. You would not imagine it but the little village contains, not one but, 3 monuments connected to Vincent: the reformed parsonage, the old church where his father was the minister, and his aunt and uncle’s graves.
6. Dordrecht (1877)
While he arrived in Dordrecht to be a bookkeeper at Blusee & Van Braam, his stay here was filled with religious-infused studies, so much so that Vincent became obsessed with it. His fervor grew so strong that he attended church services at three different churches. All three of them are still in service and be visited: Trinitas Chapel, Grote Kerk, and the Nieuwkerk.
7. Amsterdam (1877-1878)
When he first arrived in Amsterdam, Vincent had intended to follow theology courses at Amsterdam University. But despite his intense work on Greek and Latin and geometry, Vincent failed to finish his studies here. Nonetheless, he found the city beautiful and really enjoyed the atmosphere.
If you are trying to see what he saw and loved in Amsterdam, there are so many places to check. Start with the Noorderkerk Church or the English Church, the Rijksmuseum, the flower market, or the Jewish cemetery to name but a few of the spots where he enjoyed being.
You can not visit Amsterdam, in search of Van Gogh, without seeing the Van Gogh Museum. It holds the largest Van Gogh collection in the world. And if you need a bit of guidance while in the city, check Framey’s article about Amsterdam and the best things you can do there.
Since his parents lived in Etten, Vincent often spent his time and holidays there. It is safe to say that this is where he would seek refuge when he was in between jobs or when he had to rethink his plans for the future.
Vincent loved the surrounding countryside. And it showed in his stretches and drawings. Just go to the Liesbos Forest and follow the tracks or to the Boffechenhoofd Village (Seppe) where he went with his friend Anton Van Rappard.
Inspired by his friend Anton and loving the countryside, Vincent spent the autumn of 1883 in the Drenthe province. However, the short stay had such a major impact on him and you can see that in sketches, paintings, and drawings alike. The Church in Zweeloo is such an example.
One last stop in Nederlands at Nuenen. His parents had moved there and Vincent went to live with them for a while. He was in love with the surroundings, the watermills, the people, and his work there in his studio. For instance, the Old Church of Nuenen appears in more than a dozen of his works, and while the Church’s Tower was demolished back in 1885, you can still see its foundation.
Vincent’s first encounter with Belgium and Brussels is connected to his idea of becoming a minister. But after his failed attempts to finish Theology in Amsterdam, he decided upon the less demanding preaching course.
After this, he left Brussels for the Borinage district, where he would preach to the miners working in one of the poorest regions in Europe. Living in such hard conditions just brought back to the surface Van Gogh’s desire to return to art and get back into the artistic community and the big cities.
Years later Van Gogh would return to Belgium to study at the Antwerp Academy.
Vincent’s stays in Brussels were like two different stages in his life.
The first one was still when he had the idea and the religious fervor guiding him, while the second was when art had returned to its first spot in the painter’s life. Both of them were intensely lived and felt.
And after his return from the Borinage district, Brussels culture and collectivity were what the artist needed most. A mere look at Brussels, and you will understand why it inspired him. It is also here, in Brussels, that met and worked with Anthon Van Rappard, in the latter’s studio. He even enlisted at the Art Academy for a drawing course.
The coal mining area is where Vincent spent his preaching period in Belgium. The artist devoted himself to the calling and was very strict about it, allowing himself nothing else but what the miners were having there. Vincent adopted the extremely unhealthy poverty lifestyle while becoming more and more drawn to portraying the people and the surroundings.
At his brother’s encouragement, he would leave again for Brussels to dive into further training to become an artist.
13. Antwerp (1885-1886)
The Antwerp stage is entangled with the artist’s hope to finally take some art lessons but mostly with selling his works.
You can imagine Vincent discovering the city, walking on the quays, visiting churches, and admiring museum collections. And even if the buildings of Royal Entrepot are nowadays almost all gone, the quays were one of Vincent’s favorite places to wander.
Another place, where you can see Van Gogh, was at the Art Academy, where he took a course in drawing.
And even if his time in Antwerp is no longer about preaching and religion, Van Gogh still enjoyed spending time in one of the most splendid monuments, Our Lady Cathedral in Antwerp, where he admired four of Ruben’s religious paintings.
The United Kingdom
Vincent van Gogh enjoyed and learned a lot from his job at Goupil & Cie, in London. He enjoyed visiting art galleries and museums and learning about the British engravers and how they did the periodical’s illustrations.
14. London (1873-1875)
His transfer from the Hague branch to the London one of Goupil & Cie was embraced by Vincent, even though he loved Hague. At first, he loved discovering the British style, walking in Hyde Park, and discovering the culture and art in museums.
But something happened when the artist moved to Brixton in a new boarding house. He fell in love with Eugenie, the daughter of the widowed owner. The unrequited love changed him so much and he became such a recluse that his family began to worry about his wellbeing.
Returning to London, it is not a wonder why Vincent found London’s cultural life fascinating! The sheer number of extraordinary museums in London is just impressive: the British Museum, where he spent time admiring drawings, the Victoria and Albert Museum (known then as the South Kensington Museum), and the Royal Academy.
Framey’s article on London is another way to discover why this city is still one of the most prolific cultural hubs in the world.
15. Ramsgate (1876)
After his career in art dealing failed, Vincent tried a career in teaching in Ramsgate, as a teacher’s assistant at a Boy’s School.
And he found something very familiar in the seaside atmosphere of the town and especially loved the long walk on the coast all the way to Pegwell Bay. A short-lived pleasurable period as the school would soon move to Isleworth and he would also follow.
16. Isleworth (1876)
Following in the footsteps of Van Gogh: 20 places where Vincent lived, we now head to Isleworth.
The same teaching and preaching that got him to Ramsgate brought him to Isleworth when the Boy School moved. Vincent was, at that point, unwilling to return to any other type of job, other than the ones involving the word of God.
And another thing that stayed constant in his life was that he loved spending time outside and while in Isleworth Syon Park was his preference.
You might say that Vincent van Gogh’s years in France marked his entire career as an artist.
First, it had to do with his art-dealing career with the firm of Goupil & Cie. in Paris.
And ten years later, when Vincent van Gogh returned to France, it was about him and the lively art community in Paris.
Next, it was his prolific Arles and Saint-Rémy phases. Southern France’s sun and atmosphere brought out his best and most famous works.
And sadly, in the end, the return to the north of France was not a solution as he took his own life in the village of Auvers-Sur-Oise.
There is no other place like Paris for an artist! This is the truth!
Maybe it’s the Louvre Museum, the National Galleries, or perhaps it’s the small ones where artists find inspiration that make Paris the art capital that it is.
Just for a second, look at how Vincent’s Van Gogh art changed during his Paris period. He started experimenting with lighter and brighter colors, with different painting techniques, familiarized himself with expressionist works, and enjoyed the company of like-minded artists.
How could you not be fascinated and infatuated with the charming Paris?
Surely, Vincent was charmed for a while until he needed a bit of a more sunny and uplifting experience and left for Arles.
The year spent in Arles was incredibly productive, to say the least.
It was here, in the southern part of France that Vincent created and perfected his iconic style with strong, bold colors and dynamic brushstrokes. His Arles period is also when he worked together with Gaugain.
But, it is also here that Van Gogh had his famous psychotic breakdown and cut his ear and sent it to a prostitute. Unfortunately, it was not the last episode and, for a while, the artist needed psychiatric help.
Can you imagine that the Saint Paul de Mausole Psychiatric institution, where Vincent spent almost a year after his breakdown, is the place where he created some of his most famous pieces?
The Institute is housed in the former monastery and is to this day a psychiatric clinic. One, where a part of the clinic is used as a cultural center, Vincent’s room.
Following Vincent’s footsteps lead you to the last place he lived in, Auvers-Sur-Oise.
After his release from the psychiatric institutions, Vincent wanted to move closer to his brother. And he did. And the entire time he was in Auvers-Sur-Oise was prolific. He felt good and loved getting outside in the countryside to paint and the numerous landscapes prove it.
Nothing could have predicted what the 27 of July would mean. The day when he shot himself in the chest!
The truth is that it is hard to imagine a happy ending to the life of such an artist. It’s not that he wouldn’t have deserved better treatment from his contemporaries, but it’s seldom the fate of geniuses to be understood and welcomed in their own time. And aside from the mental illness that plagued him, Vincent Van Gogh was indeed ahead of his time and his art proved that.
Too bad he did not live to see how appreciation feels as well!
The story of this incredible artist ends here but I do hope you enjoyed walking in the footsteps of Van Gogh: 20 Places where Vincent lived.
And just remember that a world of wonders awaits you, a download away on Framey App.
(Your social travel app is available both on Google Play and App Store)