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 had owned an art supply shop at Spuistraat 55 since 1840. Over time, his focus shifted to selling contemporary Dutch and French paintings. He began doing business with Adolphe Goupil, the founder of Goupil & Cie, in 1846. Two years later, Uncle Cent moved to Paris, where he lived above the dealer’s premises. He became a partner in the firm in 1861. His stocks were taken over by Goupil and the firm was established at Plaats 14. Cent retired from Goupil in 1878 but continued to do business in The Hague until 1917. It moved to Plaats 20 in 1875 and the firm changed its name to Boussod, Valadon & Cie in 1884.
Vincent started work 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:
“I’m really very happy that you’re also part of this firm. It’s such a fine firm, the longer one is part of it the more enthusiastic one becomes.’’ Read the complete letter
Theo’s appointment at Goupil signalled the modest beginnings of his correspondence with Theo, which would later become intensive.
Vincent’s enthusiasm for his work did not go unremarked. In a letter his employer, Herman Gijsbert (H.G.) Tersteeg, wrote to Vincent’s father 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 raises. 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 raise of another 10 guilders brought his income up to 50 guilders a month. He hoped to be able to get by independently with this amount.
In 1873, Vincent was transferred to Goupil’s London branch, which only had a warehouse and no showroom. Vincent’s work proved substantially less exciting there than it had been in The Hague. He wrote to his brother:
“Things are going all right for me here, I have a nice home, and even though the firm isn’t as exciting as the Hague branch, it's perhaps good that I'm here...’’ Read the complete letter
A few months after Vincent's transfer to London, his brother Theo moved from Brussels to The Hague to work in the branch there.