Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Paysanne au bassin dans un jardin

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Paysanne au bassin dans un jardin
signed 'Vincent' (lower right)
black crayon, pen, brush and black and sepia ink and pencil on paper
13 x 10 3/8 in. (33 x 26.4 cm.)
Executed in Nuenen, September-October 1885
Hidde Nijland, Dordrecht and The Hague.
Scott & Fowles, New York; sale, The Anderson Galleries, New York, 3-4 April 1924, lot 290.
J.W. Böhler, Lucerne (by 1937).
Robert von Hirsch, Basel (by 1970); sale, Sotheby's, London, 27 June 1978, lot 842.
Max Sachar, Cape Town; sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 June 1983, lot 109.
Private collection, United States (circa 2000); sale, Christie's, New York, 9 May 2007, lot 20.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
W. Vanbeselaere, De Hollandsche periode in het werk van Vincent van Gogh, Antwerp, 1937, pp. 275 and 395, no. 1284 (titled Schotel Wasschende Boerin).
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, p. 453, no. 1284 (illustrated, p. 452).
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, p. 201, no. 907 (illustrated; titled Peasant Woman at the Wash Tub and Peasant Woman Hanging Up the Laundry).
J.-B. de la Faille and A. Wofsky, ed., Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Works on Paper, Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1992, vol. I, pp. 102 and 329, no. 1284 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. CXIV).
Kunsthalle Basel, Vincent van Gogh, October-November 1947, p. 34, no. 145 (titled Beim Wäschehängen).
Frankfurt am Main, Städelsches Kunstinstitut; Kunsthaus Zürich and London, Royal Academy, Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Robert von Hirsch, March-June 1978, p. 60, no. 146.
Sale room notice
Please note the correct medium is black crayon, pen, brush and black and sepia ink and pencil on paper.

Lot Essay

"What is drawing?" Vincent van Gogh asked in an 1882 letter to his brother Theo. "How does one get there? It is working one's way through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do. How can one get through that wall--since hammering on it doesn't help at all? In my view, one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently" (Vincent van Gogh: The Letters, The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, London, 2009, no. 274). By the early fall of 1885, Van Gogh had been successfully "grinding through" or shortening the distance between what his sensibility demanded he draw or paint and what he was technically able to accomplish. Drawings from Nuenen, with their exploration of volumetric forms, genre, and labor, were an integral part of that learning process.

The present drawing belongs to a small group of peasant women from Van Gogh's 1885 series of Nuenen rural labor. In sharp contrast to the class isolation and unidealized labor of Degas's urban laundresses or even Daumier's sympathetic washerwomen by the Seine, the stooped woman in Van Gogh's drawing seems to affirm her connection to the larger life of the community. Clad in her pendulous skirt and worker's clogs, the woman stoops to scrub clothes in her washtub, assuming a pose strikingly similar to one that Van Gogh used to depict farmers harvesting or planting in the fields. This connects the "women's work" of washing clothes with the other traditional components of rural labor that Van Gogh heroicized, such as the manifold chores of farming, which similarly contributed to the welfare of the community.

Although the background of the present drawing is more completely rendered, it is very similar in composition to Paysanne au bassin, now in the Kröller-Müller Museum (Hulsker, no. 906). It is also related to Paysanne écartant le linge (Hulsker, no. 907). In the latter drawing, the peasant woman takes up a smaller area of the page, as Van Gogh included more details of the landscape around her.

Around the time that Paysanne au bassin dans un jardin was executed, Van Gogh was unjustly accused of impregnating a young girl in Nuenen. A local priest made it his mission to condemn the artist, with the result that by September he found it difficult to convince the local peasants to pose for him. By the end of 1885, the situation had made it impossible for him to remain in Nuenen and continue working, so he relocated to Antwerp to further his artistic education. A few months later, the artist moved yet again, this time to Paris, thus definitively ending the richly promising and formative Dutch period of his career.

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