Van Gogh Family

Vincent van Gogh’s Uncle Cent

The artist Vincent van Gogh had an older brother with the same name, who died at birth one year before Vincent was born. He was Vincent’s namesake. However, they were both named after their father’s brother, Vincent (Cent) van Gogh. For an unknown reason, Cent and his wife, Cornelia, were unable to have children which made Vincent, the bearer of his name, the closest thing to a son Cent would ever experience. This also made Vincent an apparent heir to Cent’s estate.

Uncle Cent, as Vincent referred to him, was a well to do man who dressed impeccably and lived in a large townhouse in The Hague. Cent was lighthearted and entertaining, telling stories of kings and commerce. During Vincent’s early years, Cent visited frequently. When Vincent was nine years old Uncle Cent moved to Paris. Uncle Cent sent the family letters which allowed Vincent to hear of far away places like Italy, Switzerland and France.

Cent was to have gone into ministry like his father, though his heart wasn’t really in it. He fell ill to Scarlet Fever and emerged from the illness too weak for the intense study needed for the ministry, or so he claimed. He spent a brief amount of time in an apprenticeship with his brother, Hein, in Rotterdam and then moved to The Hague. There he worked in a paint store and left the ministry to Vincent’s father, Dorus.

Cent went on to pursue financial gain and opened his own paint and artists’ supply store. His customers were primarily young men with the financial stability and leisure time available for the arts. Cent found himself in the best drawing rooms of The Hague. By the mid 19th century the Dutch middle class was buying art prints to fill their homes and Cent’s paint store began selling art prints to meet the demand. By 1846, business was booming.

Cent traveled to Paris where he met Adolphe Goupil, a man with an empire of images and a huge production facility where engravers and printers worked to supply stores with thousands of prints. Before long the two men had a nice collaboration that worked both ways. Cent helped lesser-known Dutch artists, whose works he deemed salable, by providing materials and sometimes cash. The Van Gogh name became nearly synonymous with art dealing throughout Holland and beyond.

In 1861, Goupil and Cent finally signed a partnership agreement in which Goupil held the controlling stake in the company. The business was very lucrative for both men.

On July 30, 1869, Vincent van Gogh went to work for Uncle Cent as an office clerk at Goupil & Cie in The Hague. While working for Cent, Vincent displayed “a certain proper pride” in their shared name. For four years Vincent excelled at the business. In 1873, Vincent transferred to the London branch and his performance began to deteriorate. Eventually in 1875, Vincent left the employee of Goupil.

Throughout Vincent’s young adulthood Cent found himself frequently disappointed by Vincent and eventually Vincent realized that he would never step into the role of the son that Cent had hoped for.

In Mid August of 1888, following Uncle Cent’s death, Cent’s will was revealed and Vincent found that he was left with nothing. Cent disinherited Vincent saying, “I want to make the clear statement that it is my intention that Vincent Willem van Gogh, oldest son of my brother Theodorus van Gogh, will have no share of my estate.” It is believed that Vincent might have been cut from the will because it was suspected that the boy Sien bore and named Willem, was fathered by Vincent, a situation Uncle Cent very much disapproved of.


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