Van Gogh's Life

Vincent van Gogh in London

Vincent van Gogh moved to London in May of 1873 and lived there from time to time until 1876.  From August 1873 to August 1874, Vincent lived in a room on the third floor of 87 Hackford Road in Brixton, a suburb of south London.  At 20 years of age, Van Gogh had come to London as an art dealer for Goupil & Cie.  His time here might have been the happiest of his life.

In January of 1874, he wrote to Theo:

“I’m getting on very well here. I’ve got a delightful home and I’m finding it very pleasurable taking a look at London and the English way of life and the English people themselves, and then I’ve got nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is? But I haven’t forgotten Holland and especially not The Hague and Brabant.”

In a letter to Carolien van Stockum-Haanebeek he wrote:

“I live a rich life here, `having nothing yet possessing all.’ At times I am inclined to believe that I am gradually turning into a cosmopolite; that is, neither a Dutchman, nor an Englishman, nor yet a Frenchman, but simply a man.”

Though he didn’t paint while in London, his time there was important none-the-less.  It was in London that letter writing became a more important aspect of Van Gogh’s life.  He wrote about a number of the sites including the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibitions, Christie’s, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Hampton Court.  In a letter from April 30, 1874, he also mentioned that he had been doing some gardening:

“I am very busy gardening now, I have sown scented peas, poppies and daisies; I have nothing more to do than to wait to see what they will give.”

Though it might have been the happiest time in his life, it was short lived, in London Van Gogh’s problems began.  For a time his sister, Anna, came and lived with him but they both had to leave the home on Hackford abruptly as he had caused a great deal of embarrassment.  Reverend Van Gogh wrote to Theo on August 15, 1874:

“They [Vincent and Anna] have moved and live no more en famille, but have rented rooms. Their address is Ivy Cottage, 395 Kennington New Road, London. At the Loyers it appeared not to be too satisfactory. I am glad; I did not trust it any too well.”

The story goes that Van Gogh fell in love with the landlady’s 19 year old daughter, Eugénie Loyer. He pursued her from the day he arrived but the feelings were not returned, she wasn’t interested in him at all.  Apparently she was secretly engaged to someone else.  This was the first in a series of unrequited attempts on Van Gogh’s behalf to have a relationship with a woman.

Letter Sources:

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