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Grote Kattenburgerstraat

Uncle Jan’s house stands on land that still belongs to the navy today. A plaque on the building commemorates Vincent’s stay there.

Van Gogh in

Uncle Jan

  1. 14 May 1877
     - 5 Jul. 1878

Vincent van Gogh lived with his uncle Johannes “Jan” van Gogh, the head of Amsterdam’s naval dockyard in the eastern part of the city. Vincent often got up early in the morning, and he enjoyed watching the thousands of workers trickle into the dockyard; the sound reminded him of the murmur of the sea. The lively surroundings fascinated Vincent, and he imagined there would be plenty to see for an artist on the docks.

His uncle had set up a study bedroom for him and Vincent spent much of his time there. He was compelled to study hard, starting early every morning and continuing until late at night. Each day, he walked to the house of Maurits Benjamin Mendes da Costa, who taught him Greek and Latin. At home, he prepared for lessons and wrote essays in order to deepen his knowledge of the Bible; he wrote a paper on the history of the Reformation, mapped out the apostle Paul’s travels and made a list of all of the biblical parables and miracles. Meanwhile, he also studied algebra and geometry and tried to keep up his English and French. Vincent read the Bible often and it inspired the drawing The cave of Machpelah. Based on a story in the book of Genesis.

He covered his walls with art prints bought from a Jewish book dealer in the city in a bid to give the room a bit of atmosphere,

“which is necessary to get and refresh ideas.” Read the complete letter

lmost every time he wrote to his brother Theo, Vincent mentioned how difficult he was finding his studies; in one of the letters, he confessed:

“if I could I’d like to skip over a few years.” Read the complete letter

Over time, Vincent grew increasingly anxious about meeting his self-imposed goal. In February 1878, he wrote of his doubts: he was not sure he could succeed, and in spite of reassurances from his friends and family, he became consumed by fear. That July, he decided to return to Etten and moved out of Uncle Jan’s house.

Made here

The cave of Machpela, 1877

The cave of Machpela, 1877

Mixed technique on paper, 7,2 x 15,4 cm

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)

    Relevant letters from Vincent

    Continue reading

    1. Reindert Groot, Teio Meedendorp

      Vincent van Gogh over Amsterdam, een stadswandeling rond 1880
      Bussum, 2003
    2. Lekker wandelen in Amsterdam, Van Kattenburg tot Begijnhof, Met Vincent van Gogh door Amsterdam
      VVV Amsterdam
    3. Reindert Groot, Sjoerd de Vries

      Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam
      Amsterdam, 1990