Vincent van Gogh moved to London in May 1873 and lived intermittently in the city until 1876. During this time he is known to have visited, and written about, several of the Royal Academy of Arts' Summer Exhibitions, Christie's and iconic sites including St Paul's Cathedral and Hampton Court. He also worked as a teacher, and delivered his first sermon at a church in Richmond.The new Royal Academy of Arts website for the exhibition (The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters) exhibition which opens at the end of the week. It has a map of places in London linked to Van Gogh.
Royal Academy of Art
These are the places indicated on the above map and links to the letters in which he wrote about those places and his time in London. I've put them into chronological order.
87 Hackford Road, Brixton:
- Late August 1873 – Van Gogh moves to new lodgings at the house of Ursula Loyer and her daughter Eugenie. They run a small school at their home in Brixton. To Theo van Gogh. London, Saturday, 13 September 1873.
I now have a room, as I’ve long been wishing, without sloping beams and without blue wallpaper with a green border. It’s a very diverting household where I am now, in which they run a school for little boys.
- 25 December 1873 – Van Gogh spends Xmas with the Loyers family To Theo van Gogh. London, beginning of January 1874.
Things are going well for me here, I have a wonderful home and it’s a great pleasure for me to observe London and the English way of life and the English themselves, and I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?
- Early August 1874 – Declares his love for Eugenie and faces rejection
395 Kennington Road: Mid August 1874 – Van Gogh moves to new lodgings in Kennington at the house of John Parker, a publican (Ivy Cottage, 395 Kennington Road)
Christies: 24 April 1875 – Van Gogh sees 'Chill October' by Millais at Christies.
Streatham Common: April 1875 - Van Gogh sends a drawing of Streatham Common to his brother Theo, as discussed in Letter 32
Hampton Court: Late June 1876 – Van Gogh visits Hampton Court and praises the Old Masters in the collection To Theo van Gogh. Isleworth, Monday, 3 or Tuesday, 4 July 1876.
Last week I was at Hampton Court to see the splendid gardens and long avenues of chestnut and lime trees where masses of crows and rooks have their nests, and also to see the palace and the paintings. There are, among other things, many portraits by Holbein which are very beautiful, and two beautiful Rembrandts (the portrait of his wife and one of a rabbi), and also beautiful Italian portraits by Bellini, Titian, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, cartoons by Mantegna, a beautiful painting by S. Ruysdael, fruit by Cuyp and so on and so forth.
I rather wished that you could have been there too; it was a pleasure to see paintings again.
The suburbs of London have a peculiar beauty; between the small houses and gardens there are open places covered with grass and usually with a church or school or poorhouse between the trees and shrubbery in the middle, and it can be so beautiful there when the sun goes down red in the light evening mist.
- 2 October 1876 – Van Gogh speaks at prayer meeting at Richmond Methodist Church (formerly corner of Kew Road/Evelyn Road). From then on regularly attends on Monday evenings. See Letter 92.
- 29 October 1876 - Delivers his first sermon, as mentioned in Letter 96.
It was a clear autumn day and a lovely walk from here to Richmond along the Thames, which reflected the large chestnut trees with their load of yellow leaves and the clear blue sky, and between the tree-tops the part of Richmond that lies on the hill, the houses with their red roofs and windows without curtains and green gardens, and the grey tower above it all, and below, the large grey bridge with tall poplars on either side, with people crossing it who looked like small black figures.This is a list of all the letters he wrote by place and you can pick out the London and Isleworth letters from this.
Tomorrow I'm off to see a preview of the new exhibition at the RA - and I'm very excited!
- Royal Academy of Arts - The Real Van Gogh - the Artist and his letters
- Van Gogh's London
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam - Van Gogh Letters (all 902 letters, annotated in Dutch and translated into English)
- Vincent Van Gogh - Resources for Art Lovers