Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in a village in the southern part of the Netherlands in the province of North Brabant. The flat land of North Brabant was dotted with villages surrounded by cultivated land. It was here that Van Gogh’s love for the landscape began with Zundert’s fields, heath, swamps, and forests of beeches. His identification with nature, the simple life, with farmers and the countryside, originated during his childhood in Brabant.
Van Gogh was born in the municipality of Zundert, one of the most agricultural areas of the Netherlands, in the village parsonage on Zundert’s main street, Markt 29, located across the street from the town hall. The original home, a seven room house, one of the biggest in the village, was too dilapidated to preserve and was torn down in 1903 in order to build a new parsonage. A plaque made by Niel Steenbergen hangs on the outside of the building to commemorate Van Gogh’s birth. The Vincent Van Gogh Huis is now located on the site of the original home. The arts centre celebrates the life and works of Van Gogh.
Van Gogh didn’t paint while a child in Zundert, in fact he didn’t determine to become an artist until the age of 27, but it is clear that he had begun to show an interest in art long before that time. As a boy in Zundert, Van Gogh created a number of sketches. Though many of these sketches are not officially catalogued with numbers, they are classified as Juvenilia.
Van Gogh had fond memories of his years in Zundert. On October 3, 1876 in a letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh exclaimed,
“O Zundert! Memories of you are sometimes almost overpowering.”
In another letter to Theo in February of 1877, Van Gogh wrote,
“Father wrote that he had already seen starlings. Do you still remember how they used to perch on the church at Zundert?”
The small Dutch Reformed church in Zundert, where Van Gogh’s father preached in 1849 is still standing today.
At the age of 12, Van Gogh left Zundert for boarding school in Zevenbergen though he would visit the small town again many times over the years.
Today visitors can still see some of the Van Gogh sites in Zundert.