Great things are made by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh
These profound words reflected the sentiments shared by the EN team when we met at the Vincentre in Nuenen to discuss our progress so far and our plans for the future. We too are busy with putting our individual efforts together to make EN what it is today and more importantly what it will be in the future. The enthusiasm was perceptible and the energy in the cafe of the Vincentre had an amazing positive buzz. At this rate, we definitely are going to be a force to recon with!
What added and complimented our positive energy was the warm, friendly atmosphere at the Vincentre. Like us, they too are an organization with dedicated cheerful volunteers, one of whom took us on a journey back in time. Nigel our tour guide for the evening did a fantastic job of making us stretch our minds. He showed us the door Van Gogh knocked, the door that would be his gateway into the world of paints and pencils, brushes and canvas.
Vincent Van Gogh is amongst the most famous painters from the Netherlands and lived a very significant part of his short life in Nuenen. In the days when Helmond was the big thriving city and Eindhoven was still not illuminated by Philips, Van Gogh at age 30, homeless and jobless knocked the door of his parents residence in Neunen. Little did he know that one day this door would be looked upon with the awe and amazement that each one of us had when Nigel began briefing us about Van Gogh’s life, in front of that very door.
Van Gogh once said "Paintings have a life of their own derived from the painter’s soul". Nigel helped us stretch our imaginations and experience Van gGogh’s life in Neunen. He helped us see Van Gogh, not as the world acclaimed painter that he is known as today but as a novice artist who was struggling with a personality difficult to understand in those days.
As we stood next to Van Gogh’s first atelier, we could smell the paint on fresh canvas, feel the ego battle between Van Gogh and his father and just imagine the struggles the young Van Gogh must have gone through during those years.
Nevertheless, Van Gogh painted and practiced art a lot while he was in Nuenen. In his letter to his brother Theo Van Gogh, which he sent around November 17, 1885 Vincent wrote "I’ve just kept on ceaselessly painting in order to learn painting".
The period he lived in Nuenen, served as the strong foundation to the genius of an artist whose work unfortunately did not get to see success till much later after his death.
Even though tragic, Van Gogh’s life story and especially the part narrated by Nigel alongside the landmarks in Nuenen that appear in several of Van Gogh’s noteworthy paintings left a lasting impression on all of us. Nuenen itself with all it’s charm lends beautifully to the story and helps in adding the much needed perspective one needs to experience the life Van Gogh lived here. With a fair dose of ego clashes, romance, soul searching and perseverance, Van Gogh’s life in Nuenen makes for fantastic storytelling. It is like being part of experiential theatre, except that the characters are those of Van Gogh and the real people who had a strong influence on him and the stage is your imagination.
Definitely worth visiting and revisiting. The Van Gogh village and the Vincentre are a must do especially for people who love discovering such hidden gems in their own vicinity. I know for a fact that I will be back to go through this amazing experience again very soon.