Vincent Van Gogh loved the Black Country

Ok now that we’ve got your ear so to speak, we can come clean: the great Dutch painter did love the Black Country, just not the one you’re thinking of. In 1879 he lived for a few months in the Borinage region of Belgium, also known as le Pays Noir (the Black Country). Like our own Black Country, the Borinage was a centre of mining in the 19th century and Van Gogh referred to it as a ‘remarkable and picturesque region’ saying ‘the country and the inhabitants charm me more every day’.
So, how does all this help us think about the landscape of our own Black Country? Well we can learn from the parallels between the Borinage and the Black Country. For example both were areas of coal production at a time when waterways were almost the only way to carry heavy goods: in both cases canals proved to be vitally important in opening new markets for local minerals. Perhaps you know of other similarities …and differences?
The recommended driving route from Tipton to Van Gogh’s house in the Borinage.

2 responses to “Vincent Van Gogh loved the Black Country

  1. Nigel Brown writes to distinctly black country:
    ‘I recall from the 1960s that Emil Zola’s book Germinal – set in the Nord de France – was televised in a version that set it and spoke it in our Black Country. I have been unable to trace it other than this brief memory, but I am sure of it. (It would be great to watch it again.)
    Best wishes,

  2. Interesting. I hqve just finished reading Germinal and was trying to find the ¨black country¨of France that Zola mentions a couple of times; I am assuming of coure that hes referring to the French northern coal mining areas. In the book the Borinage were the hated strike-breakers.

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