The Old Church Tower
The old church tower just outside the village was one of Vincent’s favourite spots. He painted and sketched the tower which dated from the fifteenth century dozens of times. These works include The Old Church Tower at Nuenen (or The Peasants' Churchyard) , The Old Tower at Nuenen with a Ploughman,
Old Tower of Nuenen with People Walking. The tower could be seen from the back garden of the vicarage and can also be seen in some paintings of the garden, although Vincent did not always place the tower in the correct geographical location.
While Vincent was still living in the Hague in 1883, his brother Theo wrote to him telling him about their parents’ new home and mentioned the old church tower at the time. Vincent responded: “What you say about their new surroundings is most interesting. I certainly would like to try doing that kind of old church and churchyard with sandy graves and old wooden crosses.”
The old tower was demolished in 1885. On 2 June of that year Vincent was taken aback and wrote:
“The old tower is being pulled down next week! The spire’s already off.” Vincent made a painting of The Old Church Tower at Nuenen without Spire. He also painted the watercolour Sale of Building Scrap.
The graveyard with father Van Gogh’s grave.
There was a graveyard next to the old church tower in Nuenen that Vincent wanted to draw and paint. A number of studies were not successful but he was very satisfied with his painting of The Old Church Tower at Nuenen; he sent this work to his brother Theo who was living in Paris in June 1885 and brought Vincent’s work to the attention of art lovers there:
“I’ve left out some details — I wanted to say how this ruin shows that for centuries the peasants have been laid to rest there in the very fields that they grubbed up in life — I wanted to say how perfectly simply death and burial happen, coolly as the falling of an autumn leaf — no more than a bit of earth turned over — a little wooden cross. The fields around — where the grass of the churchyard ends, beyond the little wall, they make a last fine line against the horizon — like the horizon of a sea. And now this ruin says to me how a faith and religion mouldered away, although it was solidly founded — how, though, the life and death of the peasants is and will always be the same, springing up and withering regularly like the grass and the flowers that grow there in that churchyard.”
Vincent’s father died suddenly from a heart attack on 27 March 1885. He was buried in the graveyard on Monday 30 March.