Vincent Willem van Gogh was the oldest of six children of Theodorus and Anna van Gogh. He was born one year after his parents suffered the loss of stillborn, Vincent Willem, who would have been Vincent’s older brother but instead became his namesake. He had five siblings, two brothers and three sisters: Theodorus, Cornelius, Anna, Elisabeth and Willemina. Vincent did not have many close friends throughout his life, but the members of the Van Gogh family were closely involved in each other’s lives. They kept in contact and offered each other encouragement, advice and help.
Anna Cornelia (1855-1930), the second born child following Vincent. She went away to boarding school in Leeuwarden. She lived in England from 1874-1876 first in London and then for a time taught French in Welwyn. In 1877, she worked for the Van Houten family as a lady’s companion and eventually married the son, Joan Marius van Houten, in 1878. The couple had two daughters. Anna was not especially close with Vincent; however, he did care a great deal for her, in a letter to the Van Stockum – Haanebeek family Vincent wrote,
“Now I have something new to tell you; perhaps our Anna will come here. You can well imagine how wonderful this would be for me. It is almost too good to be true. Well, we’ll have to wait and see. If she comes, it will probably be in May; and perhaps it might be arranged for me to go and bring her back. I am longing to be closer to her than I am now. We have hardly seen each other once these last few years, and we only half know each other.”
Unfortunately, after their father’s death in 1885 the two became completely estranged.
Theodorus (Theo) (1857-1891) was one of Vincent’s closest friends and confidants. Theo went to work for the Goupil Gallery, which later became Boussod, Valadon & Cie. After moving to the Brussels office and then the London office, Theo moved to The Hague office where he became a successful art dealer. In 1881 he was made manager of the branch in Paris. In April of 1889 he married Jo Bonger and had a baby, Vincent Willem, the following year. Theo supported his older brother, Vincent, financially and emotionally allowing Vincent to completely devote himself to his art. At various times Vincent lived with or near Theo. We know much about Vincent’s life due to the numerous letters that he and Theo exchanged over the years. Following Vincent’s death, Theo’s health quickly deteriorated and he died just months later on January 25, 1891.
Elisabeth (Lies) Huberta (1859-1936) attended boarding school in Leeuwarden in 1873 and then later moved to a boarding school in Tiel. In 1880, she served as a companion and caretaker of Catharina Marianne Louise van Willes in Soesterberg. Catharina died in 1889 and two years later, Lies married Catharina’s widower, Jean Philippe Theodore de Quesne van Bruchem. The couple had one child out of wedlock followed by four more children after they married. Lies was a writer of poetry and prose and made her debut in 1908. However, she made a name for herself when she wrote a book about her brother, Vincent Van Gogh. Personal Reminiscences of an Artist, which was first published in1910. The book however, became quite controversial due to a number of discrepancies.
Willemina (Wil) Jacoba (1862-1941) was Vincent’s youngest sister. As a young teen, she spent time with her sister, Anna, in England. She attended a private school in Den Bosch from 1879-1880 and then took on work as a nanny. Wil never married and never had any children but instead lived with her mother. She worked briefly as a nurse in the Walloon hospital in Leiden, nursing the sick. She was an early feminist and joined a committee for the “National exhibition of women’s work” which eventually helped to establish the Dutch national bureau for women’s work. Wil was the sister to whom Vincent was the closest and was the only sister with which he corresponded frequently. Later in life she shared similar psychological ailments with Vincent. On December 4, 1902, Wil was admitted to the psychiatric institution in Veldwijk where she stayed until her death in 1941 at the age of 79.
Cornelious (Cor) Vincent (1867-1900) was 14 years younger than big brother, Vincent. He was still just a child when Vincent and Theo went to work for the Goupil & Cie art dealers. Unlike his older brothers, he did not join the art world. Instead, Cor became an apprentice at the engineering works of Egbert Haverkamp Begemann in Holland in 1884. He spent some time working in a factory before leaving in 1889 for an area near Johannesburg, South Africa where he worked for Cornucopia Gold Company. He worked as a civil servant for the Netherlands South African Railway Company and in 1898 married Anna Catherine Fuchs. Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted eight months. Cor was a volunteer in the Anglo-Boer War and was listed as having been killed in action, though some reports say that he committed suicide in 1900.