Van Gogh house could be saved from ruin

Van Gogh canvas prints may be one of the most popular pieces of artwork to adorn the walls of homes worldwide, but his own former lodgings are going to rack and ruin.

The house where the artists stayed in the Borinage is falling down and the local authority is taking legal measures to purchase it, The Art Newspaper reports.

Dilapidated and derelict, the building could be restored and opened to visitors and art fans from around the world in 2015, the same year when neighbouring city Mons will be the European Capital of Culture.

The Dutch artists went to a village called Wasmes in the Borinage, western Belgium in December 1878 and initially lodged with a farmer called Jean-Baptiste Denis in Rue du Petie-Wasmes, now 221 Rue Wilson.

Aged 25 at the time, Van Gogh had no money and lived in poverty, although he sometimes gave his own clothes to the poor.

He once spent six hours in the Marcasse colliery, and wrote of the place to his brother.

“This mine has a bad name because many die in it,” he said. “It’s a sombre place, and at first sight everything around it has something dismal and deathly about it.”

Six drawings from his time in the Borinage have survived, although many pieces of work made during his seven-month stay have been lost, including sketches of Denis’ family.

A commemorative plaque is in place at the house but it has stood empty for around 20 years and become run-down. The roof of the rear extension is in danger of collapse, prompting the authorities to start legal proceedings.

The municipality of Colfontaine says the property is not being cared for and could have a compulsory purchase order within six months.

It would then be restored and opened as a visitor centre, giving fans of Van Gogh the chance to see some of his work in real life, instead of just canvas prints.

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