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Vincent Van Gogh | The Potato Eaters, 1885

"The Potato Eaters" (Dutch: De Aardappeleters) is an oil painting by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh painted in April 1885 in Nuenen, Netherlands.
It is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The original oil sketch of the painting is at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, and he also made lithographs of the image, which are held in collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The painting is considered to be one of Van Gogh's masterpieces.

Vincent Van Gogh | The Potato Eaters, 1885 | Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam


During March and the beginning of April 1885 van Gogh sketched studies for the painting, and corresponded with his brother Theo, who was not impressed with his current work nor the sketches Van Gogh sent him in Paris.
He worked on the painting from 13 April until the beginning of May, when it was mostly done except for minor changes that he made with a small brush later the same year.
Van Gogh said he wanted to depict peasants as they really were. He deliberately chose coarse and ugly models, thinking that they would be natural and unspoiled in his finished work.
Writing to his sister Willemina two years later in Paris, Van Gogh still considered The Potato Eaters his most successful painting:

"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".

However, the work was criticized by his friend Anthon van Rappard soon after it was painted.

This was a blow to Van Gogh's confidence as an emerging artist, and he wrote back to his friend, "you...had no right to condemn my work in the way you did" (July 1885), and later, "I am always doing what I can't do yet in order to learn how to do it" (August 1885).

Vincent van Gogh is known to have admired the Belgian painter Charles de Groux and in particular his work The blessing before supper. De Groux' work is a solemn depiction of a peasant family saying grace before supper. The painting was closely linked to Christian representations of the Last Supper.
Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters was inspired by this work of de Groux and similar religious connotations can be identified in van Gogh's work.


Thieves stole the early version of The Potato Eaters, the Weaver's Interior, and Dried Sunflowers from the Kröller-Müller Museum in December 1988.
In April 1989, the thieves returned Weaver's Interior in an attempt to gain a $2.5 million ransom.
The police recovered the other two on 14 July 1989; no ransom was paid.
On 14 April 1991, the Vincent van Gogh National Museum was robbed of twenty major paintings including the final version of The Potato Eaters.
However, the getaway car suffered a blown tire, and the thieves were forced to flee, leaving the paintings behind.
Thirty-five minutes after the robbery, the paintings were recovered. | Source: © Wikipedia

Vincent Van Gogh | Baskets of potatoes, 1885

In the autumn of 1885, Van Gogh painted many still lifes, including this one showing baskets of potatoes.
He explained to his brother Theo why he was doing it.
He was trying to find a good way to express their physical reality: "Such that they become lumps that have weight and are solid, which you’d feel if they were thrown at you, for instance".

He enjoyed making still lifes. But he felt obliged to justify the activity to Theo, who was supporting him financially: "I know that they’re difficult to sell - but it’s devilish useful". | Source: © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent Van Gogh | Baskets of potatoes, 1885

This is one of the still lifes that Van Gogh made in September 1885. He wanted to see what would happen if you used multiple shades of the same colour in a single painting. Here he used the ochre colour terra sienna.
If you zoom in on this painting, you'll see how Van Gogh suggested the wickerwork of the basket. Look, for instance, at the vertical stalks of reed on the left side of the basket, the most brightly lit side.
Only small bits of these stalks are visible.
Van Gogh rendered these with yellowish-green dots of paint, which he squeezed directly out of the tube onto the canvas. | Source: © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent Van Gogh | Baskets of potatoes, 1885

Vincent Van Gogh | Still-life with potatoes, 1885