Vincent van Gogh was once 'ere

A fantastic piece of amateur archive detective work has revealed that the great Dutch painter was once a member of a Dutch wind band that soon became a brass band.

Van gogh
  Member number 64 — V v Gogh....

Exploring the archives of history always has the habit of throwing up a new fact or two that changes our perception of things.

So you can imagine the excitement when looking through the old records of former members of Brass Band Nuenen in The Netherlands recently, two amateur activists found a very familiar name that stood out.

van Gogh

A certain Vincent Willem van Gogh it seems was once a member of the local De Vooruitgang Wind Band, which was formed in 1884, and in turn became Brass Band Nuenen.

It seems that Van Gogh, who was born in Zundart in 1853, was a member of the band during his time living in the town. It was here that he produced one of his most famous paintings, 'The Potato Eaters' in 1885, and became romantically entwined with the tragic figure of Margot Begemann.

Van Gogh reportedly said about Nuenen: "And reality sometimes comes very close to the Brabant that one has dreamt..."


The artist painted several still-life works during his stay in Nuenen over two years, which ended in acrimonious circumstances resulting in the village priest telling parishioners that they shouldn't model for him.

Today however there is a museum there dedicated to his work.

Archive list

However, tucked away in an old archive list of members from the period, which included civic dignitaries, businessmen and people from the town, was Member No. 64: V. v Gogh. (above)

Intrigued to find out more, bass trombonist Arie van Kuijk who found the details, contacted van Gogh expert Ton de Brouwer (also a former chairman of Brass Band Nuenen) who had written a critically acclaimed book on the artist.

He said that whilst van Gogh endured a troubled time in Neunen he would have had to gain acceptance from at least two committees to have become a member of the band — an event that showed that at least a part of the local community held him in high regard.

tucked away in an old archive list of members from the period, which included civic dignitaries, businessmen and people from the town, was Member No. 64: V. v Gogh4BR

Media interest

Understandably the find has created a great deal of media interest with regional and national coverage on news outlets and media channels and newspapers.

In addition, following the investigation the current brass band is working on a project to celebrate the artist's connection with them.


Speaking to 4BR, spokesperson Tim Messerschmidt said: "We are currently working with composer Kevin Houben to write a musical story that will explore in music the life of Margot Begemann, who was that love of van Gogh's life in Neumen.

From this we also hope to produce a brass band test-piece aimed at the Third Section."

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