The London House, where the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh - the subject of a major exhibition in the Tate Britain - was in his twenties, is now open to the public.
It was only a short time of his life, between 1873 and 1877, and not much of his time in the capital remains. However, if you stroll through the side streets of Stockwell, you'll spot a blue badge at Hackford Road 87, which declares it to be his residence. The house was recently renovated and is now open for guided tours.
When we last visited an art installation in 2014, it was in a semi-dilapidated and somewhat atmospheric state. Now the peeling wallpaper and the battered furniture are gone and it is much flawless. If you are worried that the story will be erased, keep in mind that this house was inhabited by many others before a local postman discovered the connection to Van Gogh - this discovery took place in 1971 and the blue plaque followed in 1973.
When the house was for sale in 2012, James and Alice Wang bought it for £ 525,000. The art lover and businessman James remarked:
I can not afford a Van Gogh painting, but I can afford his house.
In fact, there is not much left of the painter's time, although the staircase and floorboards and mantel in Van Gogh's room date back to that time. That's why the house needs guidance - without the context the guides provide, there is not much to do. We thank the new owners for getting what they can, and new discoveries are still being made. In the attic, the builders found a prayer book, and though there is no evidence that it belonged to Van Gogh, he was a very religious man, and the owners of the house were not so religiously minded that it would be kept safe if it was should be turn out to be.
The tour of the house begins at a nearby gallery before crossing Brixton Road to see the route Van Gogh took to work. He was an avid wanderer, so he went from Stockwell to the art dealer on Southampton Street in Covent Garden, where he worked. He claimed he needed 45 minutes, so he had to walk to a fair clip - Google Maps suggests it would take more than an hour.
In Van Gogh's time, the house belonged to mother and daughter Ursula and Eugenie Loyer, who led a small school in the anteroom and built their income through subtenants. He noted that it had been the happiest time of his life - possibly because he had fallen in love with a woman but was later rejected. Early historical records indicated that it was the mother Ursula, but recent evidence suggests that her daughter Eugenie was more likely to be of a similar age to Van Gogh.
This unrequited love may have been the reason Van Gogh suddenly left the house and became more religious, away from art and preaching. His time in this house may have been only a few years, but it was an important part of his life before he became a tortured artist figure with whom we are all familiar.
Fortunately, the new owners want to make the house as artistic as possible with plays and temporary exhibitions. The aim is also to have artists who work in their residence and channel their own inner Van Gogh, inspired by their predecessor.
The Van Gogh House is not the only appreciation for the artist's time in London, because right next door is Van Gogh Walk - a short pedestrian street filled with community gardens and a community library in a small cabinet on the wall. It's a nice detour before we head back to London, although unlike Van Gogh, we'll take the subway.
Van Gogh House can only be visited as part of a guided tour. The tours take place on Thursdays and Saturdays and currently cost £ 9.50 per person. The total price is £ 15.
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