Twelve children were born to them, of whom one died in infancy. There was a warm, cordial family feeling, and however far the children drifted apart in the world, they remained deeply attached and shared each other's fortunes and misfortunes. Two of the daughters married officers in high positions, the Generals Pompe and `s Graeuwen; the other three remained single.
Vice-Admiral Johannes van Gogh
All six sons occupied honourable positions in the world. Johannes went to sea and reached the highest rank in the Navy, that of Vice-Admiral; his nephew Vincent lived at his house for a time in 1877, while he was Commandant of the Navy Yard at Amsterdam.
Vincent van Gogh, art dealer C. M. van Gogh, art dealer
Three sons became art dealers; the eldest, Hendrik Vincent - &ldUncle Hein,” as he was called in the letters - first had his business in Rotterdam and later settled in Brussels. Cornelius Marinus became the head of the firm C. M. van Gogh, so well known in Amsterdam (his nephews often called him by his initials, C. M.). The third, who had the greatest influence on the lives of his nephews Vincent and Theo, was Vincent. In his youth his health had been too weak for him to go to college, to the deep regret of his father, who had the greatest expectations for him. He opened a little shop in The Hague where he sold colours and drawing materials, and which he enlarged in a few years to an art gallery of European renown. He was an extraordinarily gifted, witty, and intelli-gent man, and had great influence in the world of art of that time. Goupil in Paris offered him a partnership in his firm, which achieved its highest renown only after Van Gogh joined it. He settled in Paris, and Mr. Tersteeg took his place as head of the firm in The Hague, where Vincent and Theo got their first training in business. Goupil was “the house” that played such a large part in their lives and where Theo remained and made a successful career. Vincent worked at Goupil's for six years; in spite of everything, his heart clung to it because in his youth it had been to him “finest, the best, the biggest in the world.” (letter 332)
Willem van Gogh, Civil Service
Only one of parson Van Gogh's six sons chose his father's profession. Theo-dorus (8 February 1822 - 26 March 1885) studied theology at Utrecht, graduated, and in 1849 secured the living of Groot-Zundert, a little village in Brabant on the Belgian frontier, where he was confirmed by his father. Theodorus van Gogh was a man of prepossessing appearance (“the handsome dominie” he was called by some), with a loving nature and fine spiritual qualities; but he was not a gifted preacher, and for twenty years he lived forgotten in the little village of Zundert ere he was called to other places, and even then only to small villages like Etten, Helvoirt, and Nuenen. But in his small circle he was warmly loved and respected, and his children idolized him.
The Reverend Theodorus van Gogh, Vincent's father
Anna Cornelia van Gogh, Vincent's mother
In May, 1851, he married Anna Cornelia Carbentus, who was born in 1819 at The Hague, where her father, Willem Carbentus, was a bookbinder. He had bound the first Constitution of Holland, thereby earning the title of “book-binder to the King." His youngest daughter, Cornelia, was already married to Vincent van Gogh, the art dealer; his eldest daughter was the wife of the well-known Amsterdam clergyman, Stricker. The married life of Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Carbentus was very happy. In his wife he found a helpmate who shared in his work with all her heart. Notwithstanding her own family and the work which it entailed, she visited his parishioners with him; and her cheerful, lively spirit was never damped by the monotony of the quiet village life. She was a remarkable, lovable woman, who in her old age (she reached her eighty-seventh year), after having lost her husband and three grown sons, still retained her energy and spirit and bore her sorrow with rare courage.
One of her qualities, next to her deep love of nature, was the great facility with which she could express her thoughts on paper: her busy hands, which were always working for others, grasped eagerly, not only needle and knitting needle, but also the pen. “I just send you a little word” was one of her favourite expressions, and how many of these “little words” came just in time to bring comfort and strength to those whom they were addressed to. For almost twenty years they have been to me a never-failing source of hope and courage, and in this book which is a monument to her sons, a word of grateful remembrance is due to their mother.
The birthplace of Vincent and Theo, Zundert, photo circa 1900
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