Success in art isn’t the only thing that evaded Van Gogh during his relatively short lifespan. His life creation, the most famous Vincent Van Gogh artwork, was done alone, without any lover by his side.
Was he unwilling? Instead, did he put all his desire into the over 1,500 Vincent Van Gogh paintings list created within a decade? Was he at least successful in dating, even if it didn’t lead to marriage? The answer to these is a simple “No, Nay, Never.”
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Love for the arts
Van Gogh’s love life is filled with rejections, unrequited love, and bare setbacks, leading him to give up entirely in his pursuit. There were at least seven women involved, and we will present you with the story of each of them, which includes an instance when he came so close. The list of Vincent van Gogh paintings names portraits of some of these women, so let’s get right in.
- Caroline Haanebeek
- Eugenie Loyer
- Kee Vos Stricker
- Sien Maria Hoornik
- Marhor Begemenn
- Agostina Segatori
Van Gogh’s first rejection came at 19 years old from his second cousin, Caroline Haanebeek. Relations between them were through his mother, and as sad as it was for Van Gogh, Caroline rejected his advances and chose to marry someone else instead.
Caroline Haanebeek Circled
What’s more about this is that Theo, Van Gogh’s junior brother, found love where Van Gogh failed. Caroline had a sister, Annet Haanebeek, whom Theo was able to court but sadly fell sick and died before anything serious emerged from it.
This didn’t dim Van Gogh’s hope for love, and just a year later, at the age of 20, he found someone else; Eugenie Loyer.
Van Gogh met Eugenie Loyer when he resumed as a trainee at Goupil art dealers in London in 1973. Eugenie was the 19-year-old daughter of his landlady, Sarah Ursula Loyer, who managed the apartment he rented from her husband, the principal of an all-boys school.
Eugenie On The Far Left
The relationship between the two is described to have gone on like that of “brothers and sisters,” but we can say Van Gogh’s feelings exceeded this. His reaction when he found out Eugenie was secretly engaged to one Samuel Plowman, a former tenant of Eugenie’s parents, is a pointer.
Although Van Gogh wrote to Theo that he was all right and had his mind occupied with work instead, shortly after this, he became very melancholic and exhibited strange behavior. However, Van Gogh eventually got over his rejection and wrote to his brother in hope; “…grant that one day Mrs van Gogh sits before us in the carriage. Amen.”
Kee Vos Stricker
It’s the story of “No, Nay, Never,” which involves Kee Vos Stricker, another cousin of Van Gogh. Kee Stricker was recently widowed when she met Van Gogh while he was visiting his family in Etten.
Kee Vos Stricker
In 1881 and at the age of 28, Van Gogh thought he had finally found love, as this time he wrote to his brother, “… I’ve come to love Kee Vos so much that I could find no other words for it than ‘it’s just as if Kee Vos were the closest person to me and I the closest person to Kee Vos”. But, unfortunately, this didn’t end well.
Kee Vos repeatedly rejected his advances with “No, Nay, Never,” and even both families were against their union. Van Gogh’s strong feelings didn’t make him stop there as he visited the Stricker family house in Amsterdam to convince her father, but he was advised to just forget about it all. This broke Van Gogh, but he didn’t take all the love he had to give.
Sien Maria Hoornik
One year later, in 1882, at 29, Van Gogh met Sien Hoornik, a pregnant prostitute with a daughter. He picked them up from the street and harbored them in his art studio, where he lived with them for over a year.
Van Gogh had a thing for socially rejected women like Hoornik, as we see in his letter to his brother; “It’s not the first time I couldn’t resist that feeling of…particularly love and affection for those women whom the clergymen damn…”. Not ending up with Hoornik, however, wasn’t because she rejected him.
Given her profession as a prostitute and faith as a Catholic, their union was vehemently opposed by pressure from Van Gogh’s family, which he didn’t cede to. Remember that nothing in Van Gogh’s paintings list gave him financial success. Well, he was only defeated by Hoornik’s decision to resume her work as a prostitute to support herself financially.
After 18 months of living together, Van Gogh moved out of his studio to Drenthe, leaving Harnook and her daughter behind. Van Gogh got even closer to finding love after this.
Having moved back to live with his parents in 1884 at the age of 31, Van Gogh met Margot Begemann, a neighbor that was a decade older than him. Margot responded positively to his proposals, but as with many of his previous relationships, their union was opposed by third parties, this time Margot’s sisters.
Margot also suffered from anxiety attacks, one of which made her drink poison. Having saved her from this suicide attempt, Van Gogh decided they couldn’t be together and ended the relationship and pursued himself. Margot is known to have possessed a couple of his early artworks, which he sent her in the late 1880s.
Gordina De Groot
Although Van Gogh had an entanglement with Gordina De Groot, a farmer’s daughter, to the extent that everyone thought he was responsible for her pregnancy, his final real attempt at love came with Agostina Segatori.
Agostina Segatori was the owner of Le Tambourin, a restaurant in Paris, and a popular portrait model for famous artists in the city. Van Gogh was in an ambiguous relationship with her, as he met her in 1886 and provided her with paintings in exchange for free food.
After five months, the relationship ended when Agostina fell ill. She had seemingly lost a baby for another man through abortion or miscarriage, and Van Gogh was heartbroken again.
With many rejections and heartbreaks, it isn’t hard to see why Vincent Van Gogh finally gave up in his pursuit of love at age 33. Instead, he found pleasure in his art and prostitutes and comfort in his brother and close confidant, Theo. We see many of Vincent Van Gogh’s drawings describe these pursuits of his later life.