Vincent Van Gogh is one of the world’s well known visual artists. He was famous after his death because of the troubled life he lived. Little we know that he was under the tutelage of a certain Anna Birnie, Van Gogh’s governess.
Reportedly, when the painter was 8 years old, his parents were not pleased with the education he was receiving so they made him quit primary school.
Anna Birnie was 17 when Vincent was put under her care. Apparently, Birnie came from a family with an artistic background, as per The Art Newspaper. Birnie’s father was a painter but ended up in a mental asylum, so he never made a career out of his art.
Apparently, Birnie’s family were originally from Scotland and they only emigrated to the Netherlands in the 1700’s. Birnie was allegedly referred to be the family’s governess by Vincent’s aunt, Bertha.
According Smithsonian.com , Ron Dirven, the director of the Van Gogh house at Zundert, Netherlands, was the one who spearheaded to dig deeper into the governess’ life story.
Reports said that Dirven managed to track down Birgitte Birnie, a descendant of Anna Birnie, who was working in a nearby museum.
“There are several Annas in the family. Before this I’d never established a relationship with the Van Gogh’s governess,” Birgitte stated.
Anna Birnie taught Vincent and his siblings from February 1862, he was eight years old.
“Anna almost certainly played a significant role in the creation of Vincent’s first sketches,” Dirven stated.
One of Vincent’s aunts recalled that he drew a barn and a farmhouse for his father’s birthday. This drawing presumably survived and has now belonged to a private collection.
When Vincent went to boarding school in 1864, Anna Birnie left Zundert 3 years later. Reportedly, she died in 1917 in Indonesia, on a family owned tobacco plantation.