Van Gogh in
Tomakker (hoek van de Smits van Oyenlaan met de Laan van Nuenhem)
The cemetery still exists and can be visited
Van Gogh in
Beside the old church tower at Nuenen was a graveyard that Vincent liked to draw and paint. Several of his studies were unsuccessful but he was satisfied with the painting The Old Church Tower at Nuenen. In June 1885, he sent the work to his brother Theo, who was living in Paris and showed Vincent’s work to art connoisseurs there:
“I’ve left out some details — I wanted to say how this ruin shows that for centuries the peasants have been laid to rest there in the very fields that they grubbed up in life — I wanted to say how perfectly simply death and burial happen, coolly as the falling of an autumn leaf — no more than a bit of earth turned over — a little wooden cross. The fields around — where the grass of the churchyard ends, beyond the little wall, they make a last fine line against the horizon — like the horizon of a sea. And now this ruin says to me how a faith and religion mouldered away, although it was solidly founded — how, though, the life and death of the peasants is and will always be the same, springing up and withering regularly like the grass and the flowers that grow there in that churchyard.” Read the complete letter
Vincent’s father died suddenly of a heart attack on 26 March 1885. He was buried in the cemetery on Monday, 30 March.
The church still exists and is occasionally used by the Protestant church in Nuenen.
Van Gogh in
Since August 1882, Vincent’s father had been parson of the Dutch Reformed church in Nuenen. Its congregation numbered circa one hundred worshipers. In February 1884, while living in Nuenen, Vincent painted the church for his mother, who was bedridden with a broken thigh bone. He probably worked on the painting again in the autumn of 1885, adding in the churchgoers. It is now known as Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen.
Vincent likely seldom attended services in the church or not at all, as he had turned his back on Christianity several years earlier and due to his strained relationship with his father.
Sint Elisabethlaan 1A
The sexton’s house still exists today and can also be visited. The building is part of the Vincent van Gogh House. An artist-in-residence facility has been created on the grounds, with a guesthouse and gallery. A new studio was built on the site of the old barn.
Van Gogh in
Beside the church stands a small house that was acquired by the Dutch Reformed Church of Zundert in 1862/63 upon the advice of Vincent’s father. The building was put to use as the home for the church’s sexton. Vincent’s father collected the necessary funds and personally contributed ten Dutch guilders. The sexton’s house is now an extension of the Van GoghHuis with an artist-in-residence.
The Vincent Van GoghHuis, an entertaining museum devoted to Vincent’s life and work, occupies the site of the old parsonage. The current building dates from 1903 and is thus not the house Vincent grew up in.
Van Gogh in
The parsonage was home to the Van Gogh family. Vincent and his siblings, Anna, Theo, Elisabeth, Willemien and Cor, grew up in the centre of the village of Zundert, where their father, Theodorus “Dorus” van Gogh, was a minister in the Dutch Reformed church. The maidservant remembered Vincent as the least pleasant of the children. She called him an oarige – Brabant dialect for an “oddball”. Culture played an important role in the house: there were art prints on the walls, the children took music lessons and had a piano, and they were read stories. The rich education they received bore fruit in their adult lives. Vincent maintained a insatiable lifelong love of art and literature, which he often expressed in his letters to his family.
From family traditions the picture emerges that a social life was led in the presbytery. Initially there was a vegetable garden behind the house, but the Van Goghs followed it to a piece of land right next to the cemetery near the church. The Van Goghs’ memories paint a pleasant picture of life at the parsonage. The house was surrounded by a large kitchen garden; there were goats who gave milk, and a family dog. The children usually played in the garden. Vincent and his brother Theo built sand castles there; he recalled the memory years later, when he was teaching in Ramsgate:
“We go to the beach often; this morning I helped the boys build a sand-castle like those we made in the garden at Zundert.” Read the complete letter
Vincent loved to wander the fields surrounding the village. The habit seems to have led to his lifelong affinity for nature and love of solitary walks that enabled him to get away from it all.
From 1862 to 1864, Vincent may have been tutored at home by the governess Anna Birnie, with help from his father Dorus van Gogh. Yet the family evidently wanted him to be educated elsewhere; in autumn 1864, he left home for the first time to go to boarding school in Zevenbergen and then to secondary school in Tilburg. He sometimes made day trips home. Vincent finally came home in 1868 and lived at the parsonage for one and a half year. He then left to take up his first job in The Hague.