THE Kröller-Müller Museum presents a rare opportunity to see early drawings by Vincent Van Gogh later this month. The exhibition, entitled The early Van Gogh “work against indifference”, is curated by Auke van der Woud highlights work from the Kröller-Müller’s extensive collection, the second largest in the world. Seldom exhibited on account of their sensitivity to light, the drawings on display depict the fringes of late nineteenth century society and convey much about the artists’ regard for working class people.
Accompanying the drawings in the gallery, which is near Amsterdam, are Van Gogh’s comments from his personal letters which reveal a fascinating insight into his tenacious approach to artistic practice, “I say it again – work against indifference – perseverance isn’t easy – but things that are easy mean little.”
Although influenced by the work of Breton and Millet, Van Gogh depicted the drudgery of rural life rather than a romanticised version of it. In a letter to his brother Theo, he describes his studies of tree roots wrenched from the earth as a symbol of “life’s struggle”. In his figurative drawings, peasants shoulder the hardship of relentless labouring, either digging, gleaning or bent double under sacks of coal, they press on in all weathers. Van Gogh sensed truthfulness in their weathered faces, a quality he regarded more desirable than beauty.
Describing his model and mistress, Sien, he noted, “I find in her exactly what I want: her life has been rough, and sorrow and adversity have put their marks upon her – now I can do something with her.”
by Miranda Charalambous
The early Van Gogh: “work against indifference” opens from September 24, 2016 until April 9, 2017 at the Kröller-Müller Museum, Houtkampweg 6, 6731 AW Otterlo, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)318 591 241
Front page image: Vincent Van Gogh, Peasant woman gleaning, July – August 1885, black crayon, grey washed, white opaque watercolour, traces of fixative, on wove paper, 52.2 x 43.2 cm © Kröller-Müller Museum