1878 – 1880
When his formal theological studies turned out to be a dead end, Vincent started work as an assistant minister among the miners of the Borinage, in Belgium. He felt strong empathy with their plight, going down the mineshaft himself to experience their pitiful conditions. His church superiors considered his involvement too close, and he was fired. Vincent shut himself off from everyone, even suspending his correspondence with his brother Theo. After Vincent had led this hermitic existence for some time, Theo visited him and urged him to embark on an artistic career. Vincent saw the light, comparing the moment to a bird that had moulted its old feathers and sprouted new ones. From that time on, he devoted himself fully to artistic pursuits.