(Netherlands 30 Mar 1853–29 Jul 1890)
39.4 x 30.2cm stretcher; 59.3 x 50.0 x 7.5cm frame
Without the obsessive regime of self-instruction and direct observation from nature that typified his Nuenen period, it is doubtful we would know Vincent van Gogh today. A late starter, the almost 30-year-old van Gogh made up for lost artistic time in a fever of drawing and painting that culminated in his first masterpiece, 'The potato eaters', finished in 1885. Between December 1884 and the completion of this rustic nocturne, he produced forty bust-length portraits of peasant types: a series of Heads of the People as it were. Van Gogh's socialist sympathies are apparent in every one. Vigorously brushed and soberly coloured, they take substance from the darkness around them. Fiery highlights on flesh and fabric suggest lamplight. Indeed, 'The potato eaters' is lit by paraffin. The present brooding study in all likelihood shows Antonius van Rooij, paterfamilias of the group. Van Gogh yearned to share in the social simplicity and moral certainty of this man. That he could not do so, though painful to him, left open the way to art.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
Christie's London (England), 02 Apr 1990, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Christie's London, 2 April 1990 'Impressionist and Modernist Paintings and Sculpture' lot 19
Hilmar Reksten (Norway), pre 02 Apr 1990, Sold Christie's London, 2 April 1990 'Impressionist and Modernist Paintings and Sculpture', lot no. 19, 'Property from the Hilmar Reksten Collection, sold on behalf of the bankrupt estate of the late Hilmar Reksten'.
Private Collection, post 01 Jul 1970, England
Mrs E. Mahe-Williame (France), pre 01 Jul 1970, Aix-en-Provence/France, sold Sotheby's London, 1 July 1970
Mrs S. Williame-Aurier (France), post 1892, Chateauroux/France
G. Albert Aurier (France, d.1892), 1890-1892, Chateauroux/France, acquired through Theo van Gogh
Complesso del Vittoriano (Italy) (Author), Vincent van Gogh: Timeless Country - Modern City, 2010, 126 (colour illus.), 237. cat.no.26
Colta Ives, Susan Alyson Stein, Sjraar van Heugten, Marije Vellekoop, Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings, New York, 2005, 108 (illus.). fig.99, illustrated in reference to cat.no. 25 'Head of man' 1884-1885, collection Van Gogh Museum
'Foundation building' by Michael Wardell, pg.14-17, Look Sep 2004, Sep 2004, 15.
Detroit Institiute of Arts (United States of America) (Author), Van Gogh Face to Face: The Portraits, Detroit, 2000, 39 (colour illus.), 40. fig.no. 18
Bruce James (Australia) (Author), Edmund Capon (England; Australia, b.1940) (Director), Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Domain, 1999, 46 (colour illus.).
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1997 1997, 1997, 16 (colour illus.).
Ewen McDonald (Australia) (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, Sydney, 1994, 140, 141 (colour illus.).
Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874) (Author), Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no pagination or catalogue numbers
Judith Ryan (Australia, b.1941) (Editor), Shell presents Van Gogh: his sources, genius and influence, Sydney, 1993, 70, 71 (colour illus.). cat.no. 30
Louis van Tilborgh (Author), The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh, Netherlands, 1993, 92 (illus.). cat.no. 15
Art and Australia (Vol. 28, No. 3) Autumn 1991, Autumn 1991, 338 (illus.). cat.no. 1
Christie's London (England) (Editor), Christie's London: Impressionist and Modern Paintings and Sculpture, London, 02 Apr 1990, 50 (colour illus.), 51. cat.no. 19
S. Helliesen (Author), Hilmar Rekstens Samlinger, Norway, Unknown, (illus.). cat.no. 25
Jan Hulsker (Netherlands) (Author), The complete van Gogh; paintings, drawings, sketches, Oxford, 1980, 129 (illus.). cat.no. 563, dated as December 1884, whereabouts unknown.
P. Lecaldano (Author), L'opera pittorica completa di van Gogh, Milan, 1977, 102 (illus.). cat.no. 143
J.B. de la Fialle (Author), The works of Vincent Van Gogh, his paintings and drawings, London, 1970, 96 (illus.). cat.no. 160a, as collection of Mrs E. Mahe-Williame, Aix-en-Provence.
John Rewald (b.1912, d.1994) (Author), Post-Impressionism from Van Gogh to Gauguin, New York, 1956, 36 (illus.). Private collection, Aix-en-Provence
Shell presents Van Gogh: his sources, genius and influence, National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], 19 Nov 1993–16 Jan 1994.
Shell presents Van Gogh: his sources, genius and influence, Queensland Art Gallery, 22 Jan 1994–13 Mar 1994.
Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994.
Van Gogh: Face to Face, Detroit Institiute of Arts, 12 Mar 2000–04 Jun 2000.
Van Gogh: Face to Face, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 02 Jul 2000–24 Sep 2000.
Van Gogh: Face to Face, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 22 Oct 2000–14 Jan 2001.
Vincent van Gogh: Timeless country - modern city, Complesso del Vittoriano, 07 Oct 2010–20 Feb 2011.