Although Vincent has spent a lot of time outside his home country, there are many places related to Van Gogh in the Netherlands. He was born there and has spent his childhood years in the south of the country. This is also where he lived during the first half of his painting career. The Netherlands is home to two museums with the most significant collections of his work, as well.
I have spent a weekend in Brabant exploring some places related to Van Gogh’s life during my project “Follow the footsteps of Van Gogh“. Here are some places I have visited, together with my recommendations for the best museums with Van Gogh’s paintings in the Netherlands.
Van Gogh in the Netherlands
I wanted to start my trip symbolically related to Van Gogh. So, I started it on Vincent’s birthday, March 30 th in Zundert. A place where he was born. While driving through Brabant, I couldn’t help myself, but look for some motives and colours Vincent showed on his paintings from his Dutch phase.
However, it was a beautiful sunny day, and the only people working on the field were having modern equipment and have looked nothing like his potato eaters.
1 – Van Gogh in Zundert
The first place I visited in Brabant was a village Van Gogh was born into in 1853 – Zundert. Van Gogh family moved there because his father worked as a protestant pastor and got a job as a preacher there. It was predominantly Catholic region, back at the end of the 19th Century, so Van Gogh family has been a Protestant minority there. But, a wealthier minority, as well.
I have met with Peter, who was my guide for a day, and we went on a stroll around Zundert, to see some places related to Vincent’s life. Van Gogh’s family house was at the main square, just across the street from the town hall. His primary school was there, as well.
# – Vincent Van Gogh Huis
*Address: Markt 26-27, 4881 CN Zundert
Although, the original house is not there anymore, there is the Vincent van Gogh Huis Museum on exactly the same spot nowadays. However, its garden is the original garden of the house. While I was there, trees just started to blossom. And, although, they became a subject of Vincent’s paintings, later on, I couldn’t stop wondering how inspirational they were for him, as well.
Vincent van Gogh Huis’ goal is to encourage young painters to create art inspired by Vincent. It’s quite interesting to see the work of some of those artists. Just around the corner from the museum, is an artist residence house, where they can come, live for some time and create art inspired by Vincent. I was quite lucky because there was a young local artist there while I was visiting, and he showed me some of his work and the interior of the house.
*TIP: There is a lovely Brasserie Restaurant Van Gogh at a garden of the museum. I had lunch there and truly enjoyed it! It’s a great place for a meal in Zundert.
# – The Dutch Reformed Church
*Address: Vincent van Goghplein 1, Zundert
Just next to it is an old Dutch Reformed Church in which Vincent’s father used to be a pastor. Vincent would often go there, listen to him and spent a lot of his time in and around that church. However, another place related to Van Gogh is there, as well. Vincent’s older brother, also named Vincent van Gogh, was stillborn and buried there precisely one year before the painter was born. I could just imagine how horrible walking next to the grave with his own name, could be for a little boy.
# – Statue of Vincent and Theo van Gogh
*Address: Vincent van Goghplein, Zundert
At a small square in front of the church, there is a beautiful statue created by Ossip Zadkine, showing Vincent and Theo van Gogh. It’s such a beautiful statue witnessing their brotherly love.
Something so interesting to me during this trip was to see how many people were, and still are, inspired by Van Gogh. Artist Zadkine, for example, created several statues of Vincent. I could also see that while talking with my guides and other people I have met during this trip.
One of them was my Zundert guide, Peter, as well. A few years ago, while working on the promotion of their local art festival, he and his colleagues said they have found an old recording of Vincent van Gogh visiting Zundert. Something that started as a small local joke soon became big news on Dutch television. And later on, international media shared it, as well. I loved that story so much, I have to share a link to the movie here with you.
2 – Van Gogh in Etten-Leur
After lunch at the garden of Vincent van Gogh Huis, I’ve taken a bus to Etten-Leur. That’s the place where Vincent moved in 1881, after preaching among the coal miners in the Belgian region of Borinage during the last two years. He spent a few months living with his parents there. Although he hasn’t lived there for a long time, it’s quite an interesting place, because, that’s the place where he officially started to work as a painter. There is a document from when he moved there and registered in a city hall, in which he stated his profession as a painter. However, after being very persistent with asking his cousin Kee to marry him, and getting into many conflicts with his parents, on a Christmas day of 1881, he has left it for good.
It’s quite interesting that later on when he was in Arles in 1888, Paul Gauguin asked him to paint something from his memory. And Vincent painted a scene from Etten-Leur. So, it looks that although he has spent only a few months there, that Dutch town remained quite important to Vincent.
Etten-Leur is a small and cute Dutch town, and after checking in at my hotel Vincents, I went to meet my guide Vincent, who has shown me around.
# – Van Gogh Church
*Address: Markt 4, 4875 CE Etten-Leur
We first visited the Van Gogh Church that was located just across the street from my hotel. This is where Vincent’s father was a preacher. It’s a gallery today, with different temporary exhibitions organised and a room with some info about Van Gogh and his work.
Something I really liked in Brabant were signs with reproductions of Vincent’s paintings at the places somehow related to his life and work. You can choose between English and Dutch, press the button and listen to information about them.
Behind the church, there is a massive wall with reproductions of Van Gogh’s letters and drawings created in Etten-Leur. I really liked it, because, in a way, his heritage became public art. And it’s something incorporated in the life of anyone passing next to it now.
# – Statue of Vincent van Gogh
*Address: Binnentuin, Etten-Leur
Behind the Van Gogh Church, there is another statue of Vincent. This time he’s presented as a painter. There is also an info sign there with more info about his life and work in Etten-Leur.
# – Heemkundekring Jan Uten Houte
*Address: Markt 53, 4875 CC Etten-Leur
This place is not directly related to Vincent van Gogh, but it’s very interesting to understand some of the paintings he has created in Brabant. In one of the houses in Heemkundekring Jan Uten Houte, there is a room showcasing an interior of the Brabant peasant house from the second half of the 19th Century. It’s giving a great idea of how the houses of those peasants, he liked to paint during his time there, looked like. I could almost imagine his potato eaters sitting around that table.
*TIP: If you’re going to spend a weekend in Brabant and would like to book a hotel in Etten-Leur, I can’t recommend you enough Hotel Vincents. It’s located right in the city centre overlooking the square where the Van Gogh Church is. Rooms are very good, and the restaurant on the ground floor is great!
3 – Van Gogh in Nuenen
After starting my day with a nice breakfast in my hotel, I went to another place related to Van Gogh in the Netherlands – Nuenen. That’s a village where Van Gogh lived between 1883 and 1885. And where he has created the majority of his paintings while in the Netherlands. I have met my guide Frans at the entrance to the village, next to the Opwettense watermill. It’s a watermill Van Gogh painted on one of his paintings, as well. We had lunch there and went on a ride around Nuenen then.
There are many places in Nuenen where you can feel the time of the 1880s when Vincent lived there. There are also many places there somehow linked to him.
# – House where Van Gogh lived
*Address: Berg 26, Nuenen
Vincent lived with his parents in a nice house in the centre of the village. House still exists today, and it’s interesting to compare it with the painting he has made after it. It’s so fascinating to recognise his emotions towards the specific places on his paintings from that time. You can definitely say he didn’t like living there, by those dark windows and a way he has pained the house. It’s interesting that a local Nuenen’s pastors are still using the same house for themselves and their families.
Although his family belonged to the wealthier protestants living there, he was more interested in a life of local peasants. Some of those old peasant houses could still be found in and around Nuenen. And can give you a good idea about how did they look like.
One of them, Het Kostershuisje, was recently restored and you can rent it and spend a night in it. I believe you can’t come closer to Vincent than that. You can see that special place on a photo below.
# – The Reformed Church
*Address: Papenvoort 2, Nuenen
Another place in Nuenen that was quite important to Vincent during his life was the Reformed Church. It’s located in the centre of the village. Vincent created a painting of it for his mother. Later on, after his father died, he has added people on it, looking like they are attending the funeral. That painting is also quite interesting because it was stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002. It was just recently found, restored and returned back to the museum.
# – Vincentre
*Address: Berg 29, 5671 CA Nuenen
Across the road of his parent’s house is a museum dedicated to his life in Brabant. It’s quite interesting to learn about his family members there. Paintings created by some of his fellow contemporary painters from the Netherlands are also on display. I especially loved the movie about his life in Nuenen and the way he has created his “The Potato Eaters”. At the top floor, there are some photos and more info about his descendants and their approach to his memory. Which was so amazing to see, as well.
# – Nune Ville
*Address: Berg 24, Zundert
Nune Ville is a house just next to the one where Van Gogh family lived. It’s a place where Vincent’s lover Margot Begemann lived. House was restored by the Van Gogh family in the second half of the 20th Century. Today it’s a great example of the 19th Century house. But, it’s also home to a lovely collection of paintings created by some of Van Gogh’s contemporary painters. House is privately owned today, but it could be visited on certain days. For more info about the opening hours, take a look on a link here.
# – Signs at locations of his paintings
Nuenen was a place where Van Gogh lived during most of his early career, and many paintings from his Dutch phase were created there. That’s why many locations on which he has created them could be still found there. Frans and I took a short ride with a car (although, you can easily explore it on a bicycle, too) and have looked for some of them. We’ve found a place where the house of de Groot family once stood. He used them quite often as his models. They are also depicted on his ‘The Potato Eaters’. We’ve also found a windmill that could be seen on one of his paintings.
That was definitely the most exciting part of exploring Van Gogh’s heritage in Brabant. Not many of his famous paintings are there today. But, you can definitely feel Vincent and understand the meaning behind his paintings, so well. His motives, models, roads and fields he walks through, are still there. Nuenen has that rural atmosphere, that is so romantic and picturesque today.
*TIP: One of the best ways to explore places related to Vincent van Gogh in Brabant, could be on a bicycle. Many bike paths around Brabant are connecting places related to his life and work. Take a look here for more info.
Museums with Van Gogh s Paintings in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is also a great place to learn more about Van Gogh and his art because two museums with the largest collections of his paintings are located there.
# – Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
*Address: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is a place with the largest collection of his work in the world. Paintings from the Van Gogh family collection are on display there. It’s a wonderful place to learn about his work because the paintings are displayed in chronological order and you can see so well all the style changes he went through. You can only visit it by booking your ticket online in advance. So, be sure to do that before your visit on a link here.
# – Kröller-Müller Museum
*Address: Houtkampweg 6, 6731 AW Otterlo
Kröller-Müller is the museum with the second largest collection of Van Gogh’s work, also located in the Netherlands. It is home to some 90 paintings and around 180 of his drawings. Van Gogh’s paintings are displayed by a theme there, so it’s interesting to see all the differences in his paintings from his different phases. Some of the most famous paintings they have in their collection are ‘Terrace of a Cafe at Night’ and ‘Portrait of Joseph Roulin’.
# – Het Noordbrabants Museum
*Address: Verwersstraat 41, 5211 HT ‘s-Hertogenbosch
The only museum in Brabant where some of Van Gogh’s paintings could be seen is Het Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. They have a small collection of Van Gogh’s paintings created while he was living in the Netherlands. It was really interesting for me to see there some of the objects he has shown on them. Like the oil lamp from “The Potato Eaters” or clothes, peasants were wearing at a time Vincent was showing them on his paintings, too.
*TIP: On September 21, 2019, a special exhibition about “Van Gogh’s Inner Circle” is going to be organised. It will provide more information about some essential people Vincent was surrounded with during his life. So, if you happen to be nearby between September 2019 and January 2020, be sure to pay it a visit. I definitely will!
It was so exciting to explore some of the places related to the life of Vincent van Gogh in Brabant. Seeing some areas where he grew up and started to develop his painting style gave me great insight into his life. And although Dutch museums with his work are wonderful places to see some of his best work, seeing some of the places where he created them in Brabant made me appreciate them even more.
You can read all of the posts from my Van Gogh trip below:
# – I’m going to follow the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh
# – Visiting Kröller-Müller Museum
# – Vincent Van Gogh in the Netherlands
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Belgium
# – Vincent van Gogh in Paris
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Arles
# – Vincent Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
# – General info about my Van Gogh trip
*My visit to Brabant and places related to Vincent’s life in the Netherlands was a part of my “Follow the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh” trip. It was supported and organized by the Van Gogh Europe and Visit Brabant. Many thanks to all of them, lovely guides, Vincents Hotel and everyone else who helped me organise it.