One of Van Gogh’s famous earliest works is The Potato Eaters. What many people do not realize, though, is that not only did Van Gogh do more than one painting of The Potato Eaters, but he also did studies, drawings, sketches and graphic works of this subject. Van Gogh spent a great deal of time working on perfecting The Potato Eaters as he hoped it would be his breakthrough painting.
In April of 1885, Van Gogh was living in Nuenen and was working on The Potato Eaters when he wrote the following to his brother Theo,
“I want to tell you that I am working on the potato eaters, and I have painted new studies of the heads; the hands especially are greatly changed.
What I am trying to do most is to bring life into it.”
Later in the month he again wrote to his brother Theo about the painting stating,
“Though the actual painting will have been completed in a comparatively short time, and largely from memory, it has taken a whole winter of painting studies of heads and hands.”
Van Gogh experimented with color and was still learning painting techniques. His goal was to not only improve as a painter, but in this work in particular to capture the true peasant life. In the same letter he went on to say,
“The point is that I’ve tried to bring out the idea that these people eating potatoes by the light of their lamp have dug the earth with the self-same hands they are now putting into the dish, and it thus suggests manual labour and – a meal honestly earned.”
Today one of Van Gogh’s paintings of The Potato Eaters can be seen at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The other painting of The Potato Eaters is located at the, Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands.
Find more information about The Potato Eaters.
View more of Van Gogh’s Potato Eater works below: