VAN GOGH, Vincent (1853-1890)
Plaque erected in 1973 by Greater London Council at 87 Hackford Road, South Lambeth, London, SW9 0RE, London Borough of Lambeth
VINCENT VAN GOGH 1853-1890 Painter lived here 1873-1874
Vincent Van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous post-Impressionist artists. He visited London as a young man in 1873–5 and stayed at 87 Hackford Road in Stockwell, South Lambeth. A blue plaque commemorates his stay there.
VAN GOGH IN LONDON
The young Dutchman Vincent Van Gogh was sent to London in 1873 by his employers, the Dutch art dealer Goupil & Co, in order to work in their Covent Garden branch. Two months after arriving he found cheap lodgings at 87 Hackford Road in Stockwell. The house was a three-storey terraced house dating from about 1840 and the home of Mrs Sarah Loyer and her daughter Eugenie.
Van Gogh enjoyed the family atmosphere at his lodgings, writing to his brother:
I now have a room such as I always longed for without a slanting ceiling and without blue paper with a green border. I live with a very amusing family now.
But his happiness was marred by his unrequited love for Eugenie Loyer. He eventually left number 7 in summer 1874 after declaring his feelings and discovering that she was already engaged. Van Gogh moved to new lodgings at Ivy Cottage, 395 Kensington New Road, where he remained until he was recalled to the Paris branch of Goupil & Co. the following May.
In April 1876 Van Gogh returned to England, teaching at a school in Ramsgate and moving with it to Isleworth. He left England for the last time at Christmas 1876.
INSPIRED BY BRITISH CULTURE
The 20-year-old Van Gogh carried a sketchbook on his walks around South London, but he had not yet found his vocation as a painter. The works for which he became famous date largely from the last five years of his life, and include Sunflowers (1888) and The Starry Night (1889). However British culture had an enormous impact on him and his later development as an artist.
While in London he read widely, immersed himself in museums and galleries and walked for miles at a time. His favourite authors included Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Christina Rossetti, and English books remained a constant source of inspiration for him. ‘My whole life,’ he wrote, ‘is aimed at making the things from everyday life that Dickens describes.’
Among the art he saw in London he was particularly inspired by the paintings of John Constable and John Everett Millais. He saw Constable’s The Cornfield (1826) at the National Gallery and would later paint several cornfields himself. His 1890 painting Wheatfield with Crows was among his final works, and is often cited as his greatest painting.
When working as an art dealer in Paris in 1875 he received a painting of Westminster Bridge by the Italian impressionist Giuseppe De Nittis, and wrote to his brother: ‘When I saw this painting I felt how much I love London.’
Vincent Van Gogh died in France in 1890 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, following a severe period of depression.