ABOVE: The Van Gogh family tree. In order: Theodorus, Anna Cornelia, Vincent, Anna Cornelia, Theo, Elisabetha, Willemina, and Pierre.
Born in Groot-Zundert, Holland, on March 30, 1853, Van Gogh was the son of Theodorus Van Gogh (1822-1885), a pastor, and Anna Cornelia Van Gogh (nee Carbentus) (1819-1907). The couple’s second son, Vincent, was named after his grandfather and stillborn brother born in 1852. He was a quiet, troubled child who lacked self-confidence and was prone to emotional outbursts. Brought up in a religious household in the south of the Netherlands, Van Gogh had three sisters and two brothers. His younger brother Theo (1857-1891) was to become his life-long supporter (both emotionally and financially) and best friend. Little is really known of Van Gogh’s early childhood, although the signs of mental instability were evident from a young age. As he grew older, Van Gogh embarked on two relationships that wouldn’t last, and
worked fairly unsuccessfully in a bookstore and as an art salesman. His education before this had been, at best, sketchy, and he was eventually employed by The Hague Gallery at the age of 16. However, after a time in London he was transferred, by his employer, back to Paris in around 1875 where he lost all interest in becoming a professional dealer. He decided at this time to follow in his father’s footsteps and devoted himself to the evangelization of the poor. He began a ministry in the mining community of Borinage, in the Hainault, a region in Belgium where he could identify with the local population. Here he developed a fascination with peasant life, which is clearly seen in many of his works. Theo, however, had other ideas for his brother’s future, and Van Gogh – despite a lack of training, or, at the time, recognizable talent –
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