The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is proud to show an unknown drawing by Vincent van Gogh. It is a study from his Hague period for the famous drawing Worn out, of which the artist also made a lithograph in 1882. Shortly before the self-chosen end of his life, he produced another painting in the collection of the Museum Kröller-Müller in Otterlo, after this print of a grieving old man. The drawing now discovered comes from Dutch private ownership.
The special study can only be seen in front of the public for three months and is shown alongside the Worn Out drawing and the litho At eternitys gate, which are both owned by the museum. “This offers a unique glimpse into Vincent van Goghs working process,” says Teio Meedendorp, who was researching the early pencil drawing. “In The Hague he had to learn everything and he practiced a lot with model drawing. You can see that he was still looking for the right composition.”
“Van Gogh depicted an old balding man in workmans clothing, exhausted, head bent, hands pressed against the eyes. He ostensibly ponders about his hard existence”, Meedendorp points out. The elderly model used by the painter is an old acquaintance for the researcher. “He was one of Van Goghs favorite models. He signed him more than forty times. We even know his name: Jacobus Zuyderland. He was one of the residents of the Dutch Reformed Old Mens House in The Hague.”
He gave the English title of the second drawing himself. “He added a fireplace to that composition, which he didnt originally have on his studio in The Hague. There was only a pot stove there. On the lithograph he made to that drawing, that fireplace is even further elaborated. He was titled At eternitys gate and indicates that the man is closer to death and is thinking about his life. Possibly thats why Van Gogh decided to make a painting of this subject too later in 1890, when he was seriously ill and just got out of the interior of Saint-Rémy.”
Owner wants to remain anonymous
The owner of the study drawing who wishes to remain anonymous asked Meedendorp to investigate if the drawing is a real Van Gogh. There is no doubt for the art historian. “This is 100% certainly an original drawing from Vincents hand. The crude watercolour paper he used for this study is the same as that of the other drawing with this subject. It has the same size and watermark. In addition, this carpenter pencil drawing is elaborated in his characteristic, expressive drawing style: Van Gogh was a fast draughtsman, never refined, but direct, with energetic scratches and fetches.”
The private collectors family has owned the drawing since 1910. “The ancestor who acquired the drawing in that year was a so-called Bremmerian, a pupil of The Hague art pedagogue Henk Bremmer who also helped his students collect. He was also the advisor to Helene Kröller-Müller, who, thanks to his advice, brought together her world-famous collection. A typical Bremmerian art collection was not complete without a Van Gogh,” explains Meedendorp.
Letters to his brother Theo The
newly discovered study and also the drawing Worn Out are both mentioned by Vincent van Gogh in letters to his brother Theo and his friend Anton van Rappard. “What is such an old workman in his lapped bomb shell suit with his bald head anyway, he noted. As a result, we know quite precisely that these works were created around November 24, 1882. In those letters, he also says that he wants to make a lithograph of this composition.”
With that print he hoped to find a job as an illustrator of books or magazines, Meedendorp knows. “Vincent was sometimes ashamed to keep on his brother Theos pocket. He wanted to make some money of his own. And because he was a great enthusiast of illustrated magazines — he cut out the wood engravings and collected them to recreate and study them — his ambition was there. Especially because his ideal was to create art for the people. Unfortunately, he never manages to get such a job as an illustrator.”
Nevertheless, his period in The Hague was one of the happier life in Van Gogh. “The artist, who also longed for a family life, lived with Sien Hoornik at that time. A prostitute in The Hague, who was pregnant with another man and already had a child. Vincent took care of this disowned woman who was also a model for him. Well known is his drawing Sorrow, also from 1882, in which he depicted a naked woman in contour and from the side in all her despair. We are also showing that work here in the room.”
The new discovery will be on display from Friday 17 September to January 2 at theAmsterdam Van Gogh Museum.