The Hague – Etten, letters 1–193
The nineteen-year-old Van Gogh is employed at a branch of Goupil & Co., an art dealer in The Hague. He is transferred to London, where – apart from a brief stay in Paris – he lives for two years. Van Gogh is then moved to Paris, where his employment with Goupil comes to an end. He returns to England to teach at two schools for boys, one in Ramsgate, the other in Isleworth. Turning increasingly to religion, Van Gogh briefly holds down a job at a bookshop in Dordrecht. He struggles to prepare himself for the ministry in Amsterdam, while his religious zeal intensifies. Having failed in his studies, Van Gogh spends almost three years in Belgium, first as a lay preacher in the Borinage, a mining district, then as a fine arts student in Brussels. His brother Theo encourages him to become an artist. Returning home to Etten, Van Gogh falls recklessly in love with his cousin. His feelings are not reciprocated; he falls out with his family and leaves for The Hague.
The Hague, letters 194–384
Van Gogh takes lessons from the painter Anton Mauve in The Hague, but these end when he sets up home with a pregnant former prostitute, Sien Hoornik, who becomes his regular model. Van Gogh spends several weeks in hospital being treated for venereal disease. He then embarks on a period of relative calm and more intent focus on his art.
Drenthe – Paris, letters 385–576
Van Gogh breaks off his relationship with Sien and moves to the countryside in Drenthe. He soon becomes lonely and despondent. He returns to his parents’ house in Nuenen for two years. He reads widely and continues to draw and paint. After his father’s death, he leaves home again. Van Gogh enrolls at the Antwerp art academy, but leaves after two months for Paris. While living in Paris with his brother Theo, Van Gogh meets fellow artists Gauguin, Pissarro, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bernard and Signac. The impact on his art is powerfully felt.
Arles, letters 577–771
After two years of bohemian living in the city, Van Gogh travels to Arles in Provence, in search of light, peace and – most importantly – colour. He persuades Gauguin to join him. After increasing evidence of mental instability, including the infamous ear-cutting episode, Van Gogh is admitted to hospital.
Saint-Rémy – Auvers-sur-Oise, letters 772–902
Van Gogh decides to commit himself to an asylum in nearby Saint-Rémy. Despite a troubled year – spells of mental illness alternating with extremely productive painting sessions – he sends dozens of paintings to Theo in Paris. After further breakdowns, Van Gogh visits a doctor recommended to him by Camille Pissarro in
Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. Having produced an astonishing number of landscapes and portraits there, and believing himself better, Van Gogh suffers a mental relapse and shoots himself in the chest. He dies two days later, with Theo at his bedside.
Twenty-five documents have been designated as ‘related manuscripts’, for consideration with the main corpus of Van Gogh's correspondence. They comprise unfinished, crossed out, incomplete or unsent letters, or fragments of letters. They consist of a number of loose pages, each of which probably once formed part of a letter but which cannot be placed with any certainty.
Van Gogh’s letters: their
background and history
The altered composition of the letters
Chronology and family tree
Glossary of materials and techniques
List of works
Maps, concordances and index