Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)


Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
oil on canvas
9 5/8 x 14 in. (24.5 x 35.4 cm.)
Painted in Nuenen in June-July 1885
Alixs J. Loudon, The Hague (before 1943).
Anon. sale, Kunstveilingen S.J. Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 23 June 1953, lot 190.
F. de Brij Art Gallery, Rotterdam and W. Brinkman, Schipluiden (1953).
Acquired by the family of the present owner, circa 1955.
V.W. van Gogh and J. van Gogh-Bonger, eds., The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, London, 1958, vol. II, pp. 234-239, letter no. 347 and pp. 240-243, letter no. 348.
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh, His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, p. 74, no. F 92a.
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, p. 180, no. 806 (illustrated).
I.F. Walther and R. Metzger, Vincent van Gogh, The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 1993, vol. I, p. 109 (illustrated).
J. Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 180, no. 806 (illustrated).
L. van Tilborgh and M. Vellekoop, Vincent van Gogh Paintings, Dutch Period, 1881-1885, Amsterdam, 1999, vol. I, p. 151 (illustrated, fig. 27e).
L. Jansen, H. Luijten and N. Bakker, eds., The Letters, The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, Drenthe-Paris, 1883-1887, London, 2009, vol. 3, pp. 84-85, letter no. 414 and pp. 89-90, letter no. 417.
Berlin, Bezirksamt Tiergarten, Vincent van Gogh, Gemälde und Zeichnungen, 1953, no. 5.

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David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

Lot Essay

The paintings Van Gogh completed in Nuenen from 1883-1885 are among the first of his early masterpieces and are evidence of his distinctive skill as a painter. During this period, the artist executed several landscapes and scenes of peasant life which demonstrate an interest in the interplay of light, shadow and natural forms. Some of the most notable of this genre are the Brabant cottage paintings, such as the present lot which Van Gogh executed in the summer of 1885. With a thick, painterly application of medium, Van Gogh depicts a humble cottage which dominates the composition. The cottage stands tall and proud, with the hints of a landscape in the background to its right. Van Gogh masterfully employs quick horizontal strokes of green paint to depict the leaves of a tree moving with the wind, and a wide horizontal stroke of brilliant pink to demonstrate the sun setting over the field.
The artist explored the Nuenen surroundings, gaining inspiration within a 6-mile radius of the town. He would walk to a chosen location to spend the day there painting or drawing from nature before returning home in the evening. As he wrote to his beloved brother, Theo: “Tomorrow I’m going to paint a thing in another village - also a cottage - in a smaller scale. I found it last Sunday on a long trip I made…searching for subjects, I’ve found such splendid cottages…I wish you’d been here on Sunday when we went on that trip. I came back covered in mud because we had to spend a good half hour wading through a stream. But for me painting is now becoming as stimulating and enticing as hunting - it is a hunt, after all, for models, and beautiful places too” (Letters, 2009 ed., no. 507).
Van Gogh could now afford the relatively expensive medium of oil on canvas, in no small part due to Theo’s generous contributions. Despite his relative professional good fortune during this period, van Gogh was often at odds with his conservative parents and began to paint with an artistic vision notably divorced from the religious idealism and subject matter of his youth. The sympathetically portrayed rural landscapes of this period recall the work of earlier Dutch masters, such as Jacob van Ruisdael, while simultaneously reflecting the artist’s own ideals. Thematically, they speak to a certain sense of anxiety and isolation which he felt at the time. At the beginning of May 1885, Van Gogh moved away from his parents and into the studio which he had been renting since the previous summer on account of the “incongruity of ideas between persons who want to maintain a certain rank and a peasant-painter who does not think of such things” (Letters, 2009 ed., no. 400).
In the subjects of rural peasants and cottages, Van Gogh found an ideal truth: “Tell Serret that I would be desperate if my figures were GOOD, tell him that I don’t want them academically correct. Tell him I mean that if one photographs a digger, then he would certainly not be digging. Tell him that in my view Millet and Lhermitte are consequently the true painters, because they don’t paint things as they are, examined drily and analytically, but as they, Millet, Lhermitte, Michelangelo, feel them. Tell him that my great desire is to learn to make such inaccuracies, such variations, reworkings, alterations of the reality, that it might become, very well - lies if you will - but - truer than the literal truth” (Letters, 2009 ed., no. 515).
The cottage would remain a symbol of youth and purity for Van Gogh throughout his life. He returned to the subject again as a memory of Brabant in 1890, when he had been admitted to the hospital at Saint-Rémy and was going through one of his worst crises (fig. 1).

(fig. 1) Vincent van Gogh, Houses with Two Figures, May-June 1890. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

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