In late August of 1881, Van Gogh left Etten for a trip to The Hague to visit Mr. Tersteeg, Mauve and De Bock. On the way home, he took the train to Dordrecht to draw a row of windmills. He most likely went over his drawing of the windmills in watercolor later while in Etten. The final work titled, Windmills near Dordrecht.
Windmills appear in some of Van Gogh’s other works including Landscape with Windmill an 1881 pencil and charcoal drawing. He drew Three Figures near a Canal with Windmill in The Hague in August of 1883. Here he was struggling with technique and wrote to Theo saying,
“Most of them are impressions of landscape, I dare not say as well done as those that sometimes occur in your letters, because still I am often checked by technical difficulties – yet there is something in them, I think – for instance, a silhouette of the city in the evening, when the sun is setting, and a towpath with windmills.”
When Van Gogh and his brother Theo lived in the Paris area, he created a series of works featuring the windmills in Montmartre. The area was still somewhat rural and contained farmland, gardens and three windmills. The windmills were tourist destinations for people from the city. Van Gogh’s works include Windmills at Montmartre a drawing from 1877, Windmill on Montmartre and View of Montmartre with Windmills both painted in oil on canvas in 1886 and Windmills at Montmartre an 1886 drawing in pencil.
The Windmills Today
One final windmill still stands today in Dordrecht, Kyck over den Dyck, (View over the Dike). Built in 1612 to produce malt for beer brewers, the windmill now serves the bakers as a corn mill creating flour.
Though the hill in Montmarte was once covered with 14 windmills, today only two remain. Together the two windmills are now known as Moulin de la Galette.
Read more about Van Gogh’s windmills.
Montmartre Windmills and allotments, 1887