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

Naaiende vrouw (Woman Sewing)

VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
Naaiende vrouw (Woman Sewing)
gouache, watercolour and black and white chalk on paper
23 ¾ x 17 ½ in. (60.1 x 44.6 cm.)
Executed in Etten in October - November 1881
Kunstzalen Unger & van Mens, Rotterdam.
Anthony van Hoboken, Vienna & Ascona, by 1937 and until 1945.
Arthur & Martha Stoll, Arlesheim, Switzerland, by whom acquired in 1951 and until 1980.
Private collection, Switzerland; sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 6 June 2008, lot 48.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
W. Vanbeselaere, De Hollandsche Periode in het Werk van Vincent van Gogh, Antwerp, 1937, no. 886, pp. 56, 74 & 408 (dated 'November - December 1881').
Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Sammlung Arthur Stoll, Skulpturen und Gemälde des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Zurich & Stuttgart, 1961, no. 74, p. 18 (illustrated; titled 'Frau am Fenster nähend').
J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh, His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. 886, pp. 329 & 645 (illustrated p. 329; titled 'Woman, Sewing by the Window: Facing Right').
J. Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Oxford, 1980, no. 69, p. 26 (illustrated).
J.-B. de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Works on Paper, vol. I, Text, San Francisco, 1992, no. 886, p. 15 (titled 'Femme assise devant la fenêtre'; illustrated vol. II, Plates, no. 886, pl. XV; titled 'Woman Sewing by the Window: Facing Right').
E. N. Heenk, Vincent van Gogh's Drawings, an Analysis of their Production and Uses, diss., London, 1995, p. 44.
J. Hulsker, The New Complete van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Amsterdam, 1996, no. 69, p. 26 (illustrated).
R. Dirven, R Nelemans & K. Wouters, Vincent van Gogh: het mysterie van de Bredase kisten: verloren vondsten, Breda, 2003, p. 91 (illustrated).
R. Nelemans & R. Dirven, The Sower, Gateway to a Career, Vincent van Gogh in Etten, Breda, 2010, no. 72, p.152 (illustrated; titled 'Seamstress').
(Possibly) Rotterdam, Kunstzalen Oldenzeel, Tentoonstelling van Werken Door Vincent van Gogh, November - December 1904, no. 61.
Rotterdam, Kunstzalen Unger & van Mens, June - July 1922 (titled 'De vrouw aan het venster').
Rotterdam, Kunstzalen Unger & van Mens, Werken van Fransche en Hollandsche meesters, April 1927, no. 34.
Rotterdam, Kunstzalen Unger & van Mens, Teekeningen van Vincent van Gogh, David Oyens, Jan Sluyters, Jaque Toorop, enz., July 1927 (titled 'Vrouwenfiguurtje').
Rotterdam, Kunstzalen Unger & van Mens, Fransche en Hollandsche kunst, November 1928, no. 18 (titled 'een Brabantsche vrouw').
Rotterdam, Kunstzalen Unger & van Mens, Tentoonstelling van meesterwerken der Fransche en Hollandsche schilderkunst, April - May 1929, no. 41 (titled 'Vrouw aan het venster').
Basel, Galerie Marguerite Schulthess, 25 Werke von Vincent van Gogh, June - August 1945, no. 19, p. 30 (titled 'Femme assise devant la fenêtre').
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Vincent van Gogh, Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, April - June 1970, no. 3, p. 65 (illustrated).
Berlin, Liebermann Villa am Wannsee, Liebermann und Van Gogh, April - August 2015, no. 18, pp. 65 & 133 (illustrated p. 65).
Münster, LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Wilhelm Morgner und die Moderne, November 2015 - March 2016 (titled 'Die Näherin Beim Fenster').

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

‘Prompted as well by a thing or two that Mauve said to me, I’ve started working again from a live model… I’ve learned to measure and to see and to attempt the broad outlines… So that what used to seem to me to be desperately impossible is now gradually becoming possible… Diggers, sowers, ploughers, men and women I must now draw constantly. Examine and draw everything that’s part of a peasant’s life… I’m no longer so powerless in the face of nature as I used to be’ (Letter 172, in L. Jansen, H. Luijten and N. Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh: The Letters, The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, London, 2009, vol. 1, p. 280). So Vincent van Gogh described his latest work to his brother Theo in September 1881. After a stint studying at the Academy in Brussels, he was at this time living with his parents in Etten, a village in Brabant in the Netherlands. Painted in October-November 1881, Naaiende vrouw (Woman Sewing) dates from this formative period in Van Gogh’s career.

Believing that the depiction of the human figure lay at the centre of art, Van Gogh focused largely at this time on depicting figures from life as a means to develop his artistic skills. Turning primarily to drawing, he worked often directly from life, roaming the fields and streets of Etten in order to capture at first hand the local inhabitants as they went about their daily lives. The motif of the seated woman—here pictured sewing—reappeared in Van Gogh’s work throughout the closing months of 1881. At the beginning of November, he told Theo, possibly describing the present work, ‘I’m drawing a great deal and think it’s getting better, I’m working much more with the brush than I used to. Now it’s so cold that practically all I do is draw figures inside, seamstress, basket-maker, etc.’ (Letter 179, ibid., p. 302).

In Naaiende vrouw, a middle aged woman uses the light from a nearby window to illuminate her work, as she sews the sleeve of a smart white shirt. Seated in a simple, wooden chair, she props her left foot on a small stool to elevate the garment slightly towards her, while a spool of thread and a pair of scissors are positioned on the floor nearby. Although the woman remains unidentified, Etten historian Cor Kerstens has suggested that Van Gogh may have used Dien de Graaf, a local seamstress and hat maker whom he knew through his father’s church, as the principal model for this suite of studies.

The inspiration for these scenes of women sewing may have come from the poem ‘The Song of the Shirt,’ originally published anonymously in Punch magazine in 1843, but later identified as the work of the English writer Thomas Hood. Van Gogh had probably come across Hood’s poetry while he was living in England in the mid-1870s, and the vivid description of the activities of the poor, toiling seamstress appears to have left a lasting impression on the artist: ‘With fingers weary and worn/With eyelids heavy and red/A woman sat in unwomanly rags/ Plying her needle and thread/Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!… She sang the “Song of the Shirt”.’ In a letter dated 15 October 1881, Van Gogh asked his friend Anthon van Rappard to search out a copy of the poem and write it down for him. It is possible that Van Rappard brought the poem with him when he visited the artist in Etten just a few days later, sparking the idea for this sequence of drawings depicting seamstresses at work.

At this time, Van Gogh made frequent visits to the artist Anton Mauve, a relative by marriage, who lived in The Hague. A favoured subject of the artist, as well as others in his circle, the seated seamstress remained at the forefront of Van Gogh’s mind. In December he painted a closely related pair of watercolours while visiting Mauve. ‘I’m still going to Mauve’s every day... The watercolours are done from a model, a Scheveningen girl... I’ve been so enlightened by Mauve as regards the mysteries of the palette… [Mauve] says that the sun is rising for me...’ (Letter 192, ibid., pp. 331-332).

The present work is similarly notable for Van Gogh’s novel use of watercolour. He had recently become interested in this medium, believing that it was essential to master this technique. ‘I bought Cassagne’s Traité d’Aquarelle,’ he wrote to Theo at the end of June,and I am studying it; even if I should not make any watercolours, I shall probably find many things in it, for instance, about sepia and ink’ (Letter 168, ibid., p. 274). It was Mauve, a skilled watercolorist himself, who was instrumental in introducing Van Gogh to the medium. The young artist was immediately enthralled. ‘How marvellous watercolour is for expressing space and airiness,’ he wrote, ‘allowing the figure to be part of the atmosphere and life to enter it’ (Letter 192, ibid., p. 332). Van Gogh used a combination of this medium, along with charcoal and pastel, to great effect in the present work. The silvery winter light illuminates the figure’s profile as well as highlighting her gleaming white bonnet and the shirt she is working on. Capturing these nuanced details, Van Gogh renders this simple interior scene with a delicate refinement, conveying a sense of quiet stillness.

Though Van Gogh’s art at this time was flourishing, his personal life was wrought with turbulence. He wrote to Theo on 3 November, ‘I wanted to tell you that this summer I’ve come to love Kee Vos so much’ (Letter 179, ibid., p. 301). Vos was a cousin of Van Gogh, a widow with a young child. Over the course of November, Van Gogh recounted to Theo his unwavering attempts to convince Vos of his affections, despite her continuous reply, ‘no, nay, never,’ as the artist told his brother (ibid., p. 301). As a result, his relationship with his parents gradually deteriorated. Events reached a head on Christmas Day, when Van Gogh refused to attend church with his reverend father. ‘At Christmas I had a rather violent argument with Pa, and feelings ran so high that Pa said it would be better if I left home. Well, it was said so decidedly that I actually left on the same day… I was angrier than I ever remember being in my whole life” (Letter 194, ibid., vol. 2, p. 12). Leaving his family home in Etten, Van Gogh moved to The Hague. Despite the upheaval caused by his break with his parents, this was a defining moment in Van Gogh’s career: it was in The Hague that his career as an artist would truly begin.

More from 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale

View All
View All