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

Jong meisje met een brood (Young Girl with a Loaf of Bread)

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
Jong meisje met een brood (Young Girl with a Loaf of Bread)
pencil on paper
19 ¼ x 11 1⁄8 in. (48.8 x 28.3 cm.)
Drawn in The Hague in September-November 1882
Dr. H.P. Bremmer, The Hague (by 1928, until at least 1937).
S.E. Neikrug, New York (1959).
Charles E. Slatkin Galleries, New York (probably acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, circa 1960.
J.-B. de la Faille, L'oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh: Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1928, vol. I, p. 51, no. 1045 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. LV).
W. Vanbeselaere, De Hollandsche Periode in het Werk van Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1937, pp. 96 and 140, no. 1045.
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, New York, 1970, p. 386, no. F1045 (illustrated, p. 387).
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, p. 55, no. 209 (illustrated).
J.-B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Works on Paper, San Francisco, 1992, vol. I, p. 51, no. 1045 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. LV).
J. Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 55, no. 209 (illustrated).
T. Loos, “Van Gogh’s Evolution, From Neophyte to Master”, The New York Times, 26 October 2012, p. 26.
Denver Art Museum, Becoming Van Gogh, October 2012-January 2013, p. 152, no. 16 (illustrated).
Further details
The Van Gogh Museum has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

“It’s enormously difficult to get the types one would prefer to have—in the meantime I’m content to draw what I can get, without losing sight of the others I would draw if I had the choice […] Naturally, while working one always feels and ought to feel a dissatisfaction with oneself, a desire to be able to do it much better, but still it’s delightful; and enjoyable to gradually assemble all kinds of figures—although the more one makes, the more one realizes one needs.” (Vincent van Gogh, Letter 280, November 1882)
In the last days of 1881, after a violent row with his parents over his unrequited passion for his cousin Kee Vos, the twenty-eight-year-old Van Gogh stormed out of his family’s home in Etten and fled to The Hague, determined to have his revenge by succeeding at last as an artist. “Art was not just a calling, it was a call to arms” (S. Naifeh and G.W. Smith, Van Gogh, The Life, New York, 2011, p. 254). Full of fiery optimism, he rented a flat on the outskirts of town and renewed his apprenticeship to Anton Mauve, his cousin-in-law and one of the leading artists of the Hague School. Within weeks, however, he was beset with difficulties, and he was beholden to his brother Theo for money.
During this period Van Gogh was involved in a significant emotional relationship with Sein Hoornik, a prostitute, whose demands shaped his outlook on life and art at this time. In March he wrote to Theo that he had engaged members of a poor family to pose for him—Maria Hoornik, whom Van Gogh noted was about forty-five, her daughter Clasina Maria Hoornik (called 'Sien'), who was around thirty, and her younger sister, ten or eleven years old, named Maria. Sien was an unwed mother of a five-year old daughter, also named Maria and was expecting another child in July. Van Gogh, who had previously used Sien as a model, was attracted to her partly out of his evangelical compassion for her background and partly due to her current desperate circumstances. "I took that woman as a model and have worked with her all winter. I couldn't pay her a model's full daily wages, but I paid her rent all the same and thus far thank God I have been able to save her and her child from hunger and cold by sharing my bread with her" (Letter 224, May 1882). They began living together in Van Gogh's small apartment at 138 Schenkweg (actually on a side-street at this address) on the outskirts of The Hague, some time before May.
The artist then revealed their relationship to his brother. Theo admonished Vincent for this improper liaison and had good reason to worry that Vincent might marry Sien out of charity. He nevertheless continued to send money that enabled the artist to pay rent on his living quarters and keep him supplied with drawing materials and watercolors. This unwavering support came during a critical crisis of confidence for the artist. Ever quick-tempered, he had fallen out with his former mentors Mauve and the art dealer H.G. Tersteeg. Moreover, he was now responsible for supporting his adopted family, an obligation he had freely elected but for which he had no previous experience.
There was also a matter of personal health. In early June, Van Gogh wrote to Theo that he was in the hospital diagnosed with venereal disease. He remained there for most of the remainder of June, unable to work, but he took advantage of this opportunity to get much-needed rest, and he began to read the Naturalist novels of Emile Zola. Sien, meanwhile, had retired to Leiden to have her baby, which she delivered on 2 July. Just out of the hospital, Van Gogh found new living quarters in the building next door at 136 Schenkweg, a large attic apartment at low rent, which would allow ample room for Sien and her newborn son, as well as space for a studio "…For a painter the location is perfect. The view from the attic window is fascinating" (Letter 209, March 1882). Van Gogh's sympathetic interest in the world around him was surely his means of offsetting a proclivity towards loneliness and isolation, feelings that were exacerbated by his idealism and lack of pragmatism. In this regard, his acceptance and embrace in his art of the world in its totality mirrors his embrace of Sien, a woman in an extremely compromised situation, with whom the artist found it increasingly difficult to live (Van Gogh broke off their relationship when he left The Hague in September 1883).
At this time in his artistic career, Van Gogh was only comfortable working within a limited range of tonal values and had little understanding of how to use the expressive possibilities of color. He was almost thirty years old and had not yet tried his hand at oil painting, the real test of a young artist's progress and skills. Largely self-taught, Van Gogh learned how to draw from illustrations in art publications, from prints, from his voracious reading, and from his extraordinary visual memory. In June 1882, he constructed a perspective frame, an apparatus with a grid of strings employed to study spatial recession and pictorial design (Letter 235). He utilized the perspective frame in the present drawing which still has faint traces of squaring, providing him with a firmer grip of the figure's proportions. The wove paper Van Gogh used for Jong meisje met een brood is an especially coarse watercolor paper with a typical grain, not unlike a canvas weave. “Yesterday afternoon I was in the attic of Smulders’ paper warehouse on Laan. There I found—guess what—double Ingres under the name Papier Torchon…There’s a whole batch—already old and mature, excellent” (Letter 253, August 1882).
Van Gogh considered drawings such as the present work to be important studies that would enable him to master his technique as a draughtsman, while bringing him closer to the subjects he desired to depict the most: the working class. He started to work methodically from models in 1881, while in Etten, where he used the family’s gardener, Piet Kaufman, and other villagers for his studies. In The Hague, Van Gogh invited people he saw on the street to pose in his studio. Referring to the present lot, Timothy Standring observed, “In some cases, Van Gogh used his figure studies as templates for compositions he viewed in metaphorical terms, Sien, as an abandoned woman embodied, sorrow. In other cases, he conceived of his models as individuals in their occupations or daily habits, such as he did with Young Girl with a Loaf of Bread…” (op. cit., exh. cat., Denver Art Museum, 2013, p. 119). What is remarkable, is that rather than taking an academic approach to his art, Van Gogh was clearly experimenting early in his career. Around the time he drew the present work, he wrote to his brother Theo: “Two things that remain eternally truer and complement each other, in my view, are: don’t snuff out your inspiration and power of imagination, don’t become a slave to the model; and the other, take a model and study it, for otherwise your inspiration won’t take on material form” (Letter 280, November 1882).

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