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87 Hackford Road

The house still exists and is sometimes open to the public. In 2014 the Dutch artist Saskia Olde Wolbers did a project in the house based on its history.

Van Gogh in

Boarding house Loyer

  1. 24 Aug 1873 1873
     - 11 Aug 1874

A few months after arriving in London, Vincent van Gogh moved into a boarding house run by the widow Sarah-Ursula Loyer in the Brixton neighbourhood, where she also ran a boys’ school. He had previously lived in another house, of which the address remains unknown Although he initially liked it there, after a few months he began looking for more affordable lodgings. He found them at the Loyers’, and he wrote enthusiastically to his brother Theo about how much he liked living there. He was satisfied with his room, enjoyed the bustle of the household and kept busy tending the Loyers’ garden. He probably slept in the room at the front of the house on the top floor three stories up.

“Things are going well for me here, I have a wonderful home and it’s a great pleasure for me to observe London and the English way of life and the English themselves, and I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?” Read the complete letter

Vincent practically regarded the Loyers almost as his own family. Back home, the Van Goghs were pleased that he had found such a fine accommodation; the often sombre Vincent was in good form. From 14 July 1874, Vincent’s sister Anna, who had come to England to look for a job, also stayed at the Loyers’. Their time together there did not last long: in mid-August, they moved to John Parker’s house at 295 Kennington Road in London.

While at the Loyers’, Vincent fell in love with Ursula’s daughter, Eugenie. Disappointingly for him, she was already engaged to another young man. This may have caused Vincent to become embittered. At any rate, his family soon observed a change in mood. He became melancholy and withdrawn and began to act peculiarly. This worried them. His mother blamed his behaviour on the disappointment he had suffered and accused the Lovers of having “secrets” and not being a normal family. She was relieved when Vincent and Anna moved to the Parkers’.

However, Vincent evidently maintained warm feelings for the Loyers: in 1876, when he walked from Isleworth to London, he paid Ursula a birthday visit.

A drawing of the Loyers’ house at 87 Hackford Road exists but it has not been accepted as an authentic Van Gogh piece by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Relevant letters from Vincent

Continue reading

  1. Martin Bailey

    Young Vincent: the story of Van Gogh's years in England
    London, 1990
  2. Kristine Groenhart en Willem-Jan Verlinden

    Hoe ik van Londen houd: wandelen door het Londen van Vincent van Gogh
    Amsterdam, 2013
  3. Jan Meyers

    De jonge Vincent: jaren van vervoering en vernedering
    Amsterdam, 1989
  4. Ronald Pickvance

    English influences on Vincent van Gogh
    London, 1974