Van Gogh "was really interested
in the ordinary person, he was also looking to
express emotion," said Van Gogh Museum Director
"I think we’re all coming out of the COVID
period feeling like this and the amazing thing
is that we can share this with our visitors.
We’re open, we’re delighted to be open.”
Discoveries of works by the famously troubled
artist, who died in 1890, are extremely rare.
The drawing is owned by a private collector and
had never been known of or displayed.
"So when (the owner) came to the museum it was a
big surprise," said Senior Researcher Teio
Meenendorp, adding that the piece was relatively
easy to authenticate. The 50 x 30 cm (20 x 12
inch) work was done with Van Gogh's favourite
drawing tool, a carpenter's pencil, in his
distinctive style, on water-marked paper from
It closely resembles the more famous "Old Man"
drawing, but the perspective is at eye-level
with the old man, rather than from above.
The work can be dated with unusual precision to
the last weeks of November 1882, Meenendorp
said, because of two letters Van Gogh wrote on
Nov. 24 of that year. It was a period of
relative stability for the artist while he was
living with a woman in The Hague.
One letter was to his brother Theo, saying he
had made two drawings of "an old man with his
elbows on his knees and his head in his hands"
and that he was thinking of making it into a
[to top of second column]
"What a fine sight an old
working man makes, in his patched bombazine suit
with his bald head," Vincent wrote.
The other letter was to a fellow artist, saying
with confidence he planned to make a lithograph
of the theme. Van Gogh did make the lithograph,
titled "At Eternity's Gate", three days later,
on Nov. 27, 1882.
Meenendorp said Van Gogh had given the works
English titles partly in hopes his drawings
might be noticed and lead to a job for him as an
illustrator for a magazine.
That never happened. Van Gogh had little
commercial success while he was alive, despite
winning great acclaim later.
The Dutch artist was troubled by mental illness
and considered himself a failure. He returned to
the theme with an oil painting known as
"Sorrowing Old Man", based on the lithograph,
two months before his own death.
Van Gogh died on July 29, 1890, of a
self-inflicted gun wound.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling, Editing by William
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