In early November 1880, Vincent registered for a course in drawing from antiquity at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles. Both the artist Willem Roelofs and the art dealer Tobias Schmidt had advised him to take lessons there. Vincent had little interest in doing so, but he wrote to his brother Theo:
It turned that education in Brussels was indeed free, and studying at the art academy would gain Vincent access to a warm, well-lit studio in winter, so he enrolled. On 5 December, he entered a competition, in which he came last. He left the academy not long afterward.