Van Gogh in Borinage, Belgium
- 1 Dec 1878 - 1 Oct 1880
After failing to gain admission to the next stage of his studies at the Flemish school for evangelists, Vincent left Brussels in early December 1878 for Pâturage, a village in the Borinage coal-mining region, where he intended to preach to the miners. He spent the first week with the businessman Benjamin Vanderhaegen, who subsequently found him accommodation with the farmer Jean Baptist Denis and his family in Wasmes.
In mid-January 1879, Vincent was granted a temporary position as a preacher for the Belgian evangelism committee. In this capacity, he visited the sick and injured and spoke at meetings. Vincent threw himself onto his new lifestyle, permitting himself nothing beyond what the poor miners had and lead an unhealthy life of abject poverty. Meanwhile, he became intensely fascinated with the people and the landscape and followed the stronge urge to draw. In spite of Vincent’s willingness to be of service, his six-month contract was not extended. He left for Cuesmes, where he lived with the preacher Edouard Francq.
Uncertainty and incomprehension around Vincent's plans caused tensions in the Van Gogh family, and Vincent and Theo stopped writing to each other for almost one year. Vincent's father was so worried about his behaviour that he considered having Vincent committed to a psychiatric institution in Geel.
Meanwhile, drawing had become increasingly important in Vincent's life. Longing to surround himself with art and kindred spirits, he undertook a punishing walk in March 1880 to the village of Courrières, nearly 80 kilometres away, to meet the artist Jules Breton. But he got cold feet and did not make his presence known to Breton. In July 1880, Vincent rented a room from the Decrucq family and began to work assiduously at copying drawings. Around August 1880, encouraged by his brother Theo after years of ill-fated jobs and courses of study, Vincent finally decided to make a serious effort to become an artist. He left for Brussels in October 1880 to obtain further training.