From 30 July 1869 to 10 May 1873, Vincent worked as the youngest clerk at The Hague’s branch of the international art dealer Goupil & Cie. Goupil, founded in 1829, was one of Europe’s best-known fine art and print dealers, with its headquarters in Paris and other branches in London, Brussels, Berlin and New York. The premises in The Hague opened in 1861 at Plaats 14, thanks to the influence of Vincent’s uncle Cent (Vincent van Gogh, 1820–1888).
Uncle Cent was an art dealer and collector who since 1840 had also owned an art supply shop at Spuistraat 55 in The Hague. Over time, he began to focus on selling contemporary Dutch and French paintings. He began doing business with Adolphe Goupil, the founder of Goupil & Cie, in 1846. In 1858, Uncle Cent moved to Paris, where he lived above the dealer’s premises. He was asked to become a partner in the firm, which he eventually did in 1861. His stocks were taken over by Goupil, and the firm established itself at Plaats 14. Cent withdrew from Goupil in 1878, but it continued to do business in The Hague until 1917. In 1875, it moved to Plaats 20, and the firm changed its name in 1884 to Boussod, Valadon & Cie.
Vincent started at Goupil & Cie in 1869 thanks to the mediation of his Uncle Cent. As the firm’s youngest employee, Vincent was responsible for packing, unpacking, overlaying photographs and etchings with tissue paper, and helping to crate paintings. He worked long days, kept busy and enjoyed himself. When his brother Theo went to work for Goupil in Brussels in 1873, Vincent congratulated him on getting a job with this “fine company”. He wrote to his brother:
Theo’s appointment at Goupil signalled the modest beginning of his correspondence with Theo, which would later become intensive.
Vincent’s enthusiasm for his work did not go unremarked, as is evidenced in a letter which his employer, Herman Gijsbert (H.G.) Tersteeg, wrote to Vincent’s father, stating that “enthusiasts, buyers and painters, and all who visited the business, enjoyed dealing with Vincent, and he will certainly go far.” Vincent also received two pay rises. He initially earned 30 guilders a month, which did not quite cover room and board at the Rooses’. In 1872, he received a 10-guilder increase. A subsequent rise of another 10 guilders brought his income up to 50 guilders a month. He hoped to be able to support himself on this amount.
In 1873, however, Vincent was transferred to Goupil’s London branch, which had no showroom, only a warehouse. Vincent’s work proved substantially less exciting there than it had been in The Hague. He wrote to his brother:
A few months after Vincent's transfer to London, his brother Theo moved from Brussels to The Hague to work in the branch there.