Van Gogh in Zundert, The Netherlands
- March 30, 1853 - September 30, 1864
- March 19, 1868 - July 30, 1869
He came into the world exactly a year later than a stillborn brother, also named Vincent. He was therefore the eldest but not the firstborn. After Vincent, the Van Goghs had five more children: Anna (1855–1930), Theo (1857–1891), Elisabeth (1859–1936), Willemien (1862–1942) and Cor (1867–1900).
Dorus had followed in his father’s footsteps by entering the clergy, and on 11 January 1849 he took up the post of parson for the Zundert community. Dorus Van Gogh was a popular minister. Zundert was a country village, inhabited by simple folk, and Vincent was later reminded of them when he went to work with labourers and the poor, for instance in Belgium’s Borinage region. He later wrote that in spite of all his travels and the various places he had lived, he still resembled a ”Zundert farmer” and identified with the people there in a way:
Vincent’s childhood in Zundert was pleasant, and the family was close-knit. The children were given lessons in the parsonage, attended schools in and outside the village, played in the parsonage garden and took walks in the countryside. Their mother, Anna, and the nanny, Leentje Veerman (1813–1898), played central roles in the house.
After being educated at the village school and at home, Vincent was sent to boarding school in Zevenbergen. After two years there, he went to secondary school in Tilburg. After leaving secondary school early, he lived at home for one and a half year before moving to The Hague to take his first job as an office clerk for the art dealers Goupil & Cie. The move would mark the beginning of a life filled with peregrinations, yet Zundert would always remain a reference point. On 19 January 1871, Dorus van Gogh’s tenure in the village ended. On 5 February, he took up the post of minister in Helvoirt, 50 kilometres northeast of Zundert. But the village lingered in Vincent’s memory:
A romantic idea of Zundert haunted Vincent for the rest of his life. With a mixture of wistfulness and bitterness, he wrote to his brother Theo in 1885:
"I always imagine that in Zundert and for a few years afterwards there was generally a better atmosphere at home. Since then, I don’t feel it’s got any better. These days — But what I don’t know is whether that former — that it was better in Zundert — is just my imagination — it could well be. But now, in any event, it’s certainly not that. Anyway. Regards.”
While ill in Arles in 1888, Vincent even described seeing all the rooms of the Zundert house pass before his eyes: