The parsonage was home to the Van Gogh family. Vincent and his siblings, Anna, Theo, Elisabeth, Willemien and Cor, grew up in the centre of the village of Zundert, where their father, Theodorus “Dorus” van Gogh, was a pastor in the Dutch Reformed church. The maidservant remembered Vincent as the least pleasant of the children. She called him an oarige – Brabant dialect for an “oddball”. Culture played an important role in the house: there were art prints on the walls, the children took music lessons and had a piano, and stories were read to them. The rich education they received bore fruit in their adult lives. Vincent maintained a voracious lifelong love of art and literature, which he expressed in his letters to his family.
The Van Goghs’ memories paint a pleasant picture of life at the parsonage. The house was surrounded by a large kitchen garden; there were goats who gave milk, and a family dog. The children usually played in the garden. Vincent and his brother Theo built sand castles there; he recalled the memory years later, when he was teaching in Ramsgate:
“We go to the beach often; this morning I helped the boys build a sand-castle like those we made in the garden at Zundert.” Read the complete letter
Vincent loved to wander the fields surrounding the village. The habit seems to have led to his lifelong affinity for nature and love of solitary walks that enabled him to get away from it all.
From 1862 to 1864, Vincent may have been tutored at home by the governess Anna Birnie, with help from Dorus van Gogh. But the family evidently wanted him to be educated elsewhere; in autumn 1864, he left home for the first time to go to boarding school in Zevenbergen. He sometimes made day trips home. His sister Lies recalled:
"Those were happy years, back then in Zundert! I feel as if we afterwards never had so much fun and were so pleasant together like there."
Vincent finally came home in 1868 and lived at the parsonage for one and a half year. He then left to take up his first job in The Hague.