VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
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VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)

Weesman met een hoge hoed in zijn linkerhand

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
Weesman met een hoge hoed in zijn linkerhand
pencil on toned paper
19 1/4 x 9 1/8 in. (49 x 23.2 cm.)
Drawn in The Hague in September-December 1882
Dr. H.P. Bremmer, The Hague (by 1950).
Private collection, The Hague (by descent from the above, 1956).
Dr. H.A.D. Thomas, Amsterdam.
E.J. Van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam.
Benjamin Sonnenberg, New York (acquired from the above, December 1961).
By descent from the above to the late owner.
J.-B. de la Faille, L'oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh: Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1928, vol. 4, p. 31, no. 953 (illustrated).
W. Vanbeselaere, De Hollandsche Periode in het Werk van Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1937, pp. 86, 88-89, 170, 192 and 408, no. 953.
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, New York, 1970, p. 356, no. F953 (illustrated, p. 359).
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, p. 60, no. 234 (illustrated).
J.-B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Works on Paper, San Francisco, 1992, vol. I, p. 246, no. 953 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 33).
E.N. Heenck, Vincent van Gogh's Drawings: An Analysis of their Production and Uses, Ph.D. Diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1995, pp. 69-70.
J. Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 60, no. 234 (illustrated).
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Collection H.P. Bremmer, March-April 1950, p. 9, no. 44.
Amsterdam, E.J. Van Wisselingh & Co., Vincent van Gogh, April-May 1961, no. 16 (illustrated).
New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, Artists and Writers: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Portrait Drawings from the Collection of Benjamin Sonnenberg, May-July 1971, pp. 29-30, no. 27 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Van Gogh drew Weesman met een hoge hoed in zijn linkerhand (Orphan man with a top hat in his left hand) in the autumn of 1882, during his stay in The Hague. After a momentous argument with his parents in December of 1881, the artist moved to the coastal town to study with his cousin-in-law Anton Mauve, a Dutch realist painter and leading member of the Hague School. There, Van Gogh set up a small studio and embarked on an exciting experimental journey, fueled by drawing and watercolor studies and the discovery of new painting techniques.
In his letters to Theo that fall, Van Gogh mentioned the man depicted in the present work several times. On October 1st, he wrote: “He wears a large old overcoat, which gives him a curiously broad figure; I think you would enjoy this collection of almshouse men in their Sunday and everyday clothes. I also drew him sitting with a pipe. He has an amusing bald head, large and deaf ears and white sideburns” (Letter 235, L. Jansen, H. Luijten and N. Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh: The Letters, The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, London, 2009, vol. 2, p. 88). The destitute inhabitants of the almshouse, sometimes physically or mentally ill, were nicknamed "orphans" by the locals. Marked by life, these poor residents presented perfect subjects for Van Gogh, who was fascinated with and moved by humanity's less fortunate members.
During the fall of 1882, Van Gogh produced over a hundred figure studies of the almshouse residents. The "orphan man" depicted in the present work appears to have been one of his favorite models: he alone appears in about thirty-five studies, usually in his long overcoat standing with or without a top hat, an umbrella or a cane. He has been identified as seventy-two-year-old Adrianus Jacobus Zuyderland, a pensioner who first registered at the almshouse in July of 1876. A native of The Hague, he had fought in the Ten Days’ Campaign of Holland against Belgium in 1830, a rebellion that led to the separation and independence of the two countries. He was awarded the Metal Cross for his participation in that campaign, a decoration that he proudly displayed on his lapel (J. Hulsker, op. cit., 1980, p. 60).
Zuyderland must have caught Van Gogh’s eye due to his striking appearance and versatility as a model. In the present work, Van Gogh depicts him in a three-quarter back view, standing firm in his long overcoat with his top hat in hand, as if denying the poverty of his surroundings. Still, his fatigued old fashioned attire, chunky boots and balding head hint to his true socio-economic origins and age: the poor old man seems to hold on to his hat as if to his past glory or better days.
In some of his most poignant drawings of Zuyderland, Van Gogh has captured him off guard and defeated by his miserable state, as in his 1882 drawing, Worn out. Eight years later, in May of 1890, the artist painted At Eternity's Gate (Portrait of a Sorrowing Man), a manifesto of despair undeniably inspired by Worn out. The fact that Van Gogh drew inspiration from his memory of Zuyderland during the last months of his life while at the Saint-Rémy asylum testifies to the artist’s continued sympathy for and perhaps even relatability to one of his favorite subjects. Perhaps Van Gogh saw himself as he had seen Zuyderland, tortured and alone, longing for peace and freedom at eternity’s gate.
This work has been in Helen Sonnenberg Tucker’s family collection since 1961, when her father Benjamin Sonnenberg acquired it in Amsterdam. A pioneering New York publicist and passionate collector with a keen eye, Mr. Sonnenberg built a remarkable collection comprised of exceptional works of fine arts, decorative arts and design that adorned the family’s lavish townhouse in Gramercy Park and of which the present work is undeniably a chief example.

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