Items found in Van Gogh’s former home bring his time in London to life

Items found in Van Gogh’s former home bring his time in London to life
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A whole cache of papers and items dating back to the period in which Vincent van Gogh lived in London have been uncovered from his former home, shedding new light on his time in the UK.

The items include insurance documents, a prayer book and several pieces of paper with painted watercolour flowers. They were found under floorboards and in the attic timbers of the house at 87 Hackford Road, near Brixton in South London. Van Gogh has famously made a sketch of the house, titled The Hackford Road, which is now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

The property’s current owners, Jian Wang and Alice Childs, discovered the trove while renovating their three-story, early-Victorian home they purchased in 2012.

Van Gogh expert Martin Bailey and author of “Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum,” told CNN that the artist indeed lived in that property between 1873 and 1874 while working at the Goupil Gallery in Covent Garden.

“Van Gogh was 20 when he arrived, an impressionable age for anyone, so his period in London had a deep influence on him,” he said. “What was important about London was that he worked in an art gallery, and this helped introduce him to painting. Had he never worked in a gallery, I believe it unlikely that he would ever have become an artist.”

Bailey said the items that held the strongest connection to Van Gogh were the insurance policies in the name of Ursula Loyer, who was his landlady at the time. Van Gogh is thought to have been in love with Loyer’s 19-year-old daughter, Eugenie, during his visit.

The most astonishing of the discoveries were the number of scrap pieces of paper with painted watercolor flowers on them. While Bailey does not believe they were Van Gogh’s work as the style does not resemble his own, he said they might have been Eugenie’s.

While Bailey described the items as “intriguing,” he noted that none of the objects was “definitely owned by Van Gogh.”

Bailey is co-curating an exhibition at London’s Tate Modern entitled “Van Gogh and Britain”, set to open on March 27. The exhibition will feature an almost life-sized photo of 87 Hackford Road, which will be placed at the entrance of the show.