Rijschool Koning Willem II, ca. 1900
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The building still stands. The room where Vincent took drawing lessons now houses Vincents Tekenlokaal, a multimedia centre where visitors can see and experience how he was taught. It is open to the public (an entry fee applies).

Van Gogh in

Secondary school

  1. 3 Sep. 1866 1866
     - 19 Mar. 1868 1868

Vincent came to Tilburg in September 1866 to study at the King William II secondary school. It was housed in an impressive building that was originally intended as a palace for King William II (1792–1849) but never used as such, since the king died before it was finished. The building was therefore given to the city of Tilburg in 1864 under the condition that it be turned into a secondary school, which accordingly opened in 1866.

Vincent had received a sound primary education at Jan Provily’s school in Zevenbergen and was permitted to skip the preparatory class and enter the first form. The school curriculum consisted of Dutch, French, German, English, history, geography, geometry, geometrical drawing, freehand drawing, botany, zoology, penmanship and gymnastics.

Vincent received drawing lessons from Constant Cornelis Huijsmans (1810–1886), a painter as well as an instructor who harboured outspoken views on pedagogy and employed an innovative teaching method that focused on the individual pupil. Huijsmans also published influential books: his principal work was Grondbeginselen der Teekenkunst (“Principles of Drawing”, 1852), and his Het landschap (“The Landscape”, 1840) was a popular manual for painters. Vincent’s weekly four hours of art lessons focused largely on drawing from objects (plaster casts), perspective and the study of reproductions of artworks. His training was so extensive that his complaint in a letter to his brother Theo many years later is remarkable:

“If only there had been someone then who had told me what perspective was, how much misery I would have been spared, how much further along I would be now. Well, fait accompli is fait accompli.” Read the complete letter


“I’m utterly preoccupied with the laws of colour. If only we’d been taught them in our youth!” Read the complete letter

Vincent did well in his studies, passed his exams with an average score of 7.36, and moved up to the second form. Despite these favourable results, however, he terminated his studies prematurely and returned to his parents’ house in Zundert in March 1868. Although there could have been multiple causes, the exact reason for his departure is not known.

Relevant letters from Vincent

  1. No relevant letters found so far.

Continue reading

  1. H.F.J.M. Eerenbeemt

    De onbekende Vincent van Gogh: leren en tekenen in Tilburg, 1866-1868
    Tilburg, 1972
  2. H.F.J.M. Eerenbeemt, Henk Doremalen en Ronald Peeters

    Vincent Van Gogh in Tilburg, 1866-1868
    Tilburg, 2009
  3. Jan Meyers

    De jonge Vincent: jaren van vervoering en vernedering
    Amsterdam, 1989