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Gerwenseweg 4

The original home where Vincent painted The Potato Eaters no longer exists.

Van Gogh in

Familie De Groot-Van Rooij

  1. 5 Dec. 1884 1883
     - 24 Nov. 1885

Vincent often worked at the De Groot family’s cottage, and it was there that he came up with the idea of painting The Potato Eaters. The family was comprised of mother Cornelia; her children, Hendrikus, Peter and Gordina (Sien) and Gordina’s son, Cornelis. Vincent often made portraits of Gordina (1855–1927). At least twenty studies of her are known and it is certain that she is one of the figures depicted in The Potato Eaters. is.

Vincent’s acquaintance Willem van de Wakker recalled the work’s genesis. According to him, Vincent went:

“one evening, after having painted outside all day, to the little house of the De Groot family, where he often worked, and came inside for a rest. The family was sitting together under a lamp and had begun to eat. Spontaneously, Vincent took up his canvas, brush and palette and began to paint the group.”

The Potato Eaters was the first work Vincent considered a real painting, in contrast to the many painted studies he had made. It brought together elements that had greatly concerned him, such as figure studies and the creation of contrasts between light and dark. In addition, The Potato Eaters fulfilled Vincent’s desire to produce a genuine painting of peasants:

“You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labour and — that they have thus honestly earned their food.” Read the complete letter

From his writing, it is clear that Vincent also sought greater meaning in the work:

“Painting peasant life is a serious thing, and I for one would blame myself if I didn’t try to make paintings such that they give people who think seriously about art and about life serious things to think about.” Read the complete letter

A few years later, in 1887, Vincent still regarded The Potato Eaters as one of his best paintings:

“What I think about my own work is that the painting of the peasants eating potatoes that I did in Nuenen is after all the best thing I did.” Read the complete letter

letterThe painting is still considered Vincent’s best work from his Dutch period. There are three different painted versions of The Potato Eaters: a sketch, a study and the final work. Vincent also produced a lithograph based on the study.

Made here

Study for 'The potato eaters', 1885

Study for 'The potato eaters', 1885

Oil on canvas, 33,6 x 44,5 cm

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)

The potato eaters, 1885

The potato eaters, 1885

Oil on canvas on panel, 1885

Kröller-Müller, Otterlo

Head of a woman, 1885

Head of a woman, 1885

Oil on canvas, 43,2 x 30 cm

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)

    Relevant letters from Vincent

    Continue reading

    1. Ton de Brouwer

      Van Gogh en Nuenen
      Venlo, 1984