Looking for a Direction
Vincent had several jobs until Theo gave him important advice that would change his life.
Biography, 1853 -1873
Learn more about Vincent van Gogh's childhood and the beginning of the lifelong correspondence with his younger brother Theo.
Vincent van Gogh was born in the Brabant village of Zundert on 30 March 1853. He was not the first child of the Protestant minister Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Carbentus: another son (also named Vincent) had been stillborn on the same date, precisely one year earlier.
Happily, the birth of the second Vincent went smoothly, and was followed by that of three sisters and two brothers: Anna, Theo, Wil, Lies and Cor. The Van Gogh family went on frequent walks in the area around Zundert, helping to instil a great love of nature in the future artist.
At the age of eleven, Vincent transferred from the village school in Zundert to a boarding school in Zevenbergen. He was deeply unhappy there, but managed to complete his elementary schooling. He drew from time to time, but there was little sign as yet of any special artistic talent.
When he was thirteen, Vincent went to secondary school in Tilburg, where he earned good marks, especially for languages. All the same, he quit the school half way through his second academic year (1867–68) for unknown reasons. Vincent never went back to school.
Vincent’s uncle found the sixteen-year-old Van Gogh a job as a trainee at the international art dealer Goupil & Cie. He was taken on at the branch which ‘Uncle Cent’ (short for ‘Vincent’) had set up in The Hague. Vincent’s earliest surviving letter dates from these first years at Goupil.
September 1872 marked the beginning of a life-long correspondence between Vincent and his younger brother Theo, who started work for Goupil in 1873, this time in Brussels. Vincent was transferred that same year to Goupil’s London branch.