Vincent van Gogh’s Nuenen is documented in charming fashion at the Vincentre
Who is this ‘Vincent’ and where is Nuenen?
We are exploring the life of THE Vincent. That’s Vincent van Gogh. Yes, he of the Potato Eaters and Starry, Starry Night fame. Nuenen, a beautiful small town in the region of Brabant in The Netherlands, is very much connected to his story. There is so much here that Vincent would still recognise. Yes, the trees are bigger, but one can still walk in the footsteps of this celebrated artist.
Vincent Willem van Gogh, post-impressionist artist, is considered to be one of the 19th century’s greatest painters and certainly one of the most recognised. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is dedicated to the work of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries; but there are other locations around The Netherlands which are also associated with van Gogh – places where he lived and worked.
Walks through the ‘outdoor museum’
In 1882 van Gogh’s father became a pastor in Nuenen and the family lived at the vicarage there. One can still see the building although it’s the private residence of the present pastor. Vincent van Gogh moved there to live with his parents in 1883 and remained in Nuenen until 1885.
Vincent’s Nuenen is documented in charming fashion at the Vincentre. This is also the starting point for one of the many walks through the ‘outdoor museum’ of Vincent, comprising the streets and buildings that he would still recognise. There is a written guidebook to allow visitors to tour the town independently and at their own pace.
Though he didn’t have a good relationship with his parents, Vincent decided he wanted to stay in Nuenen because he was charmed by the landscape. During that time he painted many character studies of the local farm workers, peasants and weavers that resulted in The Potato Eaters, and paintings of still life. He also painted his father’s church, vicarage and its garden. The house has changed little apart from the removal of render. The garden is much as it was in van Gogh’s day. He also painted Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen. That church still stands; one can view it from exactly the same position as the artist had chosen for his painting.
His time in Nuenen was one of the most important periods of his life. His work in Nuenen produced 195 paintings including the ‘Potato Eaters’, 313 drawings, 25 watercolours and 19 sketches in his letters.
Van Gogh produced all his work in just ten years before being overcome by mental illness and eventually taking his own life. His fame rose quickly after his death as is so often the way with sadly overlooked genius.
There are family photos with animation, reproductions of paintings, drawings and letters at Vincentre. One can see a replica of van Gogh’s studio and learn more about his life and relationships with his parents and siblings.
Vincent relied on his brother, Theo, to support him financially. Correspondence allows the visitor to see past the painter and into the mind, somewhat, of a real man who was evidently and ironically something of a disappointment to his conservative family.
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Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018