The time Vincent Van Gogh walked 100 miles to Hertfordshire to visit his sister

Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-impressionist painter has become one of the most famous figures in art history. However, his fame came in a posthumous manner, he created around 2,100 artworks including 860 oil paintings, all created within the last two years of his life.

Van Gogh, although born in the Netherlands, had ties to Hertfordshire in the form of his sister, Anne. Anne lived at Rose Cottage in Welwyn for one year whilst she taught French at a school set up by Thomas Fox.

On the Hertfordshire Memories website, you can see the plaques recording her stay in Welwyn, and the time her brother came to visit. He wrote a letter to his brother reflecting on his journey through Hertfordshire.

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In 1876, aged 20, Vincent walked 100 miles from Ramsgate to see his sister and a bust of him was placed in the village in commemoration of his visit. In an extract from the letter dated June 17, 1876 Van Gogh says: “I spent one night at Mr Reid’s and the next at Mr Gladwell’s, where they were very, very kind. I wanted to leave for Welwyn that evening, but they literally held me back by force because of the pouring rain.

“However, when it had let up somewhat, around 4 in the morning, I set out for Welwyn. First a long walk from one end of the city to the other, something like 10 miles (each taking 20 minutes). In the afternoon at 5, I was with our sister and was very glad to see her.”

Vincent and his sister frequently sent letters to each other which is where he first heard about her new role in Welwyn. She taught French at the school for £12 a year and moved into the cottage as a form of lodgings whilst she worked.

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