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Petak, 07 Maj 2021 10:33

Vincent van Gogh wrote about his painting The Potato Eaters, to his brother Theo Istaknut

Study for The Potato Eaters Study for The Potato Eaters

After moving to Nuenen in the Brabant region in 1883, Vincent van Gogh was inspired to create a portrait of the working class. On 30 April 1885, he wrote to his brother Theo:

"You see, I really have wanted to make it so 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 labor and - that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours - civilized people. So I certainly don't want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why."

Vincent van Gogh used the de Groots, a Netherlands farming family of his acquaintance, as the subjects of The Potato Eaters. He also painted the de Groot homestead in his 1885 work, The Cottage.

In a letter to his brother, Theo Vincent van Gogh wrote: "As for The Potato Eaters - it is a painting that will do well in gold - of that I am certain. But it would do just as well on a wallpapered in a deep shade of ripe corn. However, it simply mustn't be seen without being set off in this way. It will not appear to full advantage against a dark background and especially not against a dull background. And that is because it is a glimpse into a very grey interior. In real life it is also set in a gold frame, as it were because the hearth and the light from the fire on the white walls would be nearer the spectator - they are situated outside the painting, but in its natural state, the whole thing is projected backward.

Once again, it must be set off by putting something colored a deep gold or copper around it. Please bear that in mind if you want to see it as it should be seen. Associating it with a gold tone lends brightness to areas where you would least expect it, and at the same time does away with the marbled aspect it assumes if it is unfortunately placed against a dull or black background. The shadows are painted with blue and the gold color sets this off.

... I believe that The Potato Eaters will turn out well - as you know, the last few days are always tricky with a painting because before it's completely dry one can't use a large brush without running a real risk of spoiling it. And changes must be made very coolly and calmly with a small brush. That's why I took it to my friend and asked him to make certain I didn't spoil it, and why I'll be going to his place to apply those finishing touches."

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Stefan Tanasijević


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