Was Vincent Van Gogh In Poverty?

During his lifetime Vincent van Gogh would not have been considered a successful artist. He sold very few paintings and was at the mercy of others to help support him and his artwork.

Vincent van Gogh was poor, needy, and did not have money. But he was not in dire poverty because he had the support of family members, including his father and especially his brother Theo. Theo was known throughout his life for sending Vincent van Gogh money and supporting him in his artwork.

Vincent Van Gogh Had No Money Of His Own

Vincent van Gogh sold very few pieces of art during this lifetime. Some say it was only one painting; others say it was a few others and some pencil drawings. But the truth is that he did not sell many works of art during his lifetime.

It does not matter how many paintings he sold; he sold very few works of art when he was alive. It certainly was probably not enough to be able to pay for all of his living and other expenses. Vincent van Gogh was at the mercy of his brother Theo and others to be able to live and support himself and continue his art.

We can see this clearly in the 1881 letter that Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo. In a letter to his brother Theo in 1881, he wrote the following about his financial state.

When I wrote to Pa this week for money, he thought the 90 guilders I’d spent so terribly much.

You, though, will understand, I think, that this wasn’t unreasonable, because everything is expensive. But I damned well hate having to give Pa an account of every penny, the more so because everything is blabbed to everyone else, not without embellishments and exaggerations.

What’s more, Pa has now spent money on an overcoat for me that hung to the ground when I got it, and was a vulgar, flamboyant style to boot. Perhaps Pa did it out of kindness, but it really wasn’t the time to do it, since we have so many expenses already, and it’s also no way to buy clothes, without consulting the person and without fitting or measuring. Pa sent the coat here, but I immediately sent it back. So I only want to say, Theo, I’m beginning to get rather hard up.

And I’m writing to you to tell you this. I haven’t any money to stay, I haven’t any money to go back. I’ll wait a day or so in any case and do whatever you want….

Now would you like me to make a few more watercolours for you here? I’d like nothing better, but accommodation here and the models and the paint and the paper &c. &c. all cost me money, and I haven’t got any more.”

Vincent Van Gogh To His Brother theo – 18 Dec 1881

We learned from this letter that his father gave him money and his brother Theo. We also know, as he said, he had no money left at all. He was stuck; he could not travel nor couldn’t go anywhere because he had no money to do so.

Vincent Van Gogh Had Family Support – Especially From His Brother Theo

Vincent van Gogh was poor, but he did have a lot of family support, especially from his brother Theo. His brother Theo was constantly sending him money and helping him to be able to continue his works of art.

Theo, an art dealer, took Vincent Van Gogh’s works of art and tried to sell them. Even though he was not very successful in being able to sell his works of art during Vincent van Gogh’s lifetime Theo always believed in his brother and his ability.

Theo was the support behind Vincent van Gogh that allowed him to continue his art, even at a great personal sacrifice. In a letter to Vincent van Gogh, his brother Theo said this about the money he is helping and supporting van Gogh with:

“You’ve been thinking about it too much recently, and even though there’s no symptom of an accident, you’re suffering as a result. By accidents I mean poverty, and so it’s important, in order to avoid it, to tread carefully, not to overdo it, and to avoid other kinds of illness as far as possible. You talk about money that you owe me and that you wish to pay back to me. I know nothing of that. What I’d like to see you achieve would be that you never had that concern. I must work to earn money. Since the two of us don’t have much of it, we mustn’t overburden ourselves, but taking that into consideration we can hold out for some time yet, even without selling this or that. If you feel the need to do a great deal of work for yourself, good, say so, and I think we’ll be able to manage anyway,”

Theo Van Gogh to Vincent Van Gogh – 27 October 1888

We learn from this letter what a tremendous support Theo was to his brother Vincent and his artwork. Theo believed in his brother and did not want his brother to have to worry about money, even if he was sacrificing his own money and his well-being to help his brother Vincent.

Vincent Van Gogh Fully Understood His Financial Position

Vincent van Gogh fully understood his financial position. He knew that he was poor. He understood that he was dependent upon others to help him. In a letter to his brother Theo he wrote:

“Now I must tell you about a surprise I’ve had. I received a letter from Pa, very cordial and cheerful it seemed to me, with 25 guilders in it. Pa wrote that he’d received some money he hadn’t expected and that he wanted to let me share in it. Wasn’t that awfully kind? It makes me blush, though.

But there’s one thought that instinctively springs to mind. Can it be, perhaps, that Pa has heard from someone or other that I’m living in poverty or some such thing? I wouldn’t care for it if something like that was the motive, for in my opinion this view of my circumstances wouldn’t be accurate. And could cause Pa concern that isn’t entirely appropriate

Vincent Van Gogh – Letter To Brother Theo – 11 March 1883

Vincent van Gogh knew that he was poor. He understood he did not have a lot of money. He knew he depended upon his brother to help supply him with art supplies and funds for much of his daily living. But he also did not see himself in dire poverty.

During his lifetime, most people would not have considered him a successful artist as he sold very few paintings or works of art. He was at the mercy of others to help to support him. But he was not in dire poverty because he had his brother Theo who continued to give him money and help support him throughout his artwork.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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Was Vincent Van Gogh In Poverty?