Van Gogh's Breda


Breda lies in the middle of the landscape of Vincent van Gogh’s youth. In 1822 Vincent’s grandfather chose Breda, a city with grandeur, for his profession as a vicar in the beautiful Grote Kerk. Vincent’s father and his uncles and aunts spent their childhood in Breda. After the death of Vincent’s father, his mother Anna lived on the current Van Coothplein, together with Vincent’s sister Wil and brother Cor.


Breda has three Van Gogh monuments: the Grote Kerk in the city centre on the Grote Markt and the former Villa Mertersem and the Haagveld cemetery in the Princenhage district. This is where Vincent’s Uncle Cent and his grandparents are buried. The locations can be visited.

As part of the Breda’s Blind Walls Gallery, two beautiful murals honour Vincent. One of them, on the Vincent van Goghstraat, is a large painting of a potato plant, made by the artist Amok Island.

The golden triangle

Breda, Zundert and Etten-Leur

Vincent van Gogh was born in Zundert, a village near Breda, which is currently the location of a living art centre, the Vincent van Gogh House. Vincent grew up in this region, which formed him and his love for nature. At 16, he left the house in Zundert to work. He tried various jobs, from art dealer to schoolmaster and lay preacher.

Eventually Vincent found his calling: he would become an artist. His younger brother Theo helped him with this. In 1881 he registered as a painter for the first time in Etten-Leur – just a stone’s throw from Breda. The Van Gogh family lived in Etten-Leur for seven years. This story is told colourfully in the Van Gogh Church.


Van Gogh Zundert

Van Gogh Etten-Leur

An interesting aside

Vincent van Gogh always cherished fond memories of the country of his youth during his years in France. Shortly before his death, Vincent asked his mother to send him drawings that he made in Etten-Leur. How extraordinary is that? At the time fellow painter and friend Paul Gauguin, was staying with Vincent in Arles. Gauguin was fully in his symbolistic period, emphatically incorporating influences from Japanese printmaking. Gauguin had a great influence on his work in the short time he lived with Vincent. He taught him to paint from his thoughts, rather than from nature and the visible world. Fantasizing, reworking and stylizing images from memory was stimulated. Any claim to realism was denied.

Uncomfortable with it, Vincent worked only briefly in this style and technique. The differences of opinion with Gauguin even led to a psychological breakdown. Their short-lived cohabitation ended in a heated row over café owner Marie Ginoux, with whom they were both in love. Thereafter Van Gogh cut off a piece of his ear – accidentally or not. But it also resulted in one of the most imaginative and colourful works van Gogh has ever made:  ‘Memory of the gardening in Etten’/ ‘Women of Arles’. It illustrates Van Gogh’s fond memory of his time in Etten-Leur.

Memory of the Garden at Etten (Ladies of Arles)
The State Hermitage Museum Russia, St Petersburg