In the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh

Discover the places in the Netherlands that inspired Vincent van Gogh to paint so many of his incredible and stunning pictures. Main image @Willeke Machiels

Nuenen is a mere 10km from Eindhoven. With its neat houses, poplar trees, canals, wind and water mills, it might, says Anna Hyman, have remained an attractive dormitory village of the bustling city of Eindhoven had it not been for one man.

Today art lovers from around the globe head to Nuenen to pay homage to the world famous and prolific artist – Vincent van Gogh.

140th anniversary of Van Gogh in North Brabant

Whilst the artist lived in several places in Europe, and in particular in France, he spent most of his life in the Netherlands, including the province known as North Brabant.

He lived there between 1883 – 1885 observing and painting its buildings and inhabitants – often depicting the hard reality of peasant life – recording them for posterity in 195 paintings (including his famous ‘The Potato Eaters’), along with some 350 drawings, sketches and watercolours.

Time in Nuenen

2023 sees the 140th anniversary of Van Gogh arriving in Hoogeveen, Drenthe, prior to his move later that year to Nuenen and the rectory where his parents lived(he was actually born in Zundert). He was 30 years old.

By all accounts it was not the happiest of moves and by May 1884 he left his parents’ home and had found a new studio for himself in the house of the verger of the local catholic church.

His mother had had a bad accident and was bedridden so Vincent painted a picture for her of the small Dutch Reformed church where his father preached.

One picture shows parishioners dressed in mourning clothes leaving the church, he evidently added the mourners later, following his father’s death.

Local scenes

When he wanted to see friends or to buy fresh supplies of paint and ink, he would make the journey to Eindhoven.

Travel in those days at its more sedate pace meant that he had time to be aware of what was going on around him and make notes and sketches of the people, landscapes and buildings he observed,  such as a watermill at Kollen  another of the many local scenes he immortalised in paint.

Quality of light

Maybe it was partly brought about by the pure quality of the light in that North Brabant region but both Vincent and his brother Theo were fascinated by colour and light, as can be seen from the correspondence between the two men.

It obviously developed into a passion as so many paintings by Van Gogh show his experiments with shades of colours and how they vary depending on the light.

A splendid new museum

Replacing the old Vincente Museum in Nuenen is the splendid new Van Gogh Village Museum housed in an impressive purpose-built building featuring a revamped permanent exhibition showing in even more detail the artist’s personal and artistic development.

@Willeke Machiels

Included in the new museum is the interactive Lightlab set up so that visitors too can have fun whilst also learning about the effects of colour, light and perspective.

@Willeke Machiels

And to round out the full visitor experience included in the new museum is a shop, a useful reading corner, and a café selling specially baked goodies!

Explore Nuenen and further afield

Outside the museum look out for the red-topped information ‘posts’ located around the pic village at various points denoting where Vincent, as he signed himself on his paintings, would have put up his easel to paint or sketch.   

If you have the energy explore further afield by taking one of the several hiking trails through the pretty countryside. Maps on sale from the shop.

And beyond Nuenen and its immediate area don’t forget to visit the other places in Drenthe and Brabant that featured in Vincent’s life and that are also celebrating the special 140th anniversary in 2023.

More information – Rural Van Gogh

Look out for themed activities featuring ‘Rural Van Gogh’. There is also the Van Gogh Huis in Nieuw-Amsterdam, Drenthe, and not forgetting Van Gogh’s birthplace – the Vincent van Gogh House in Zundert.

Another anniversary being celebrated is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam which celebrates 50 years; and to see what else is going on check out the Van Gogh Europe Partners’ website celebrating the artist’s 175th birthday.