The year was 1885 when a young aspiring Dutch artist named Vincent van Gogh completed his first masterpiece The Potato Eaters. Using oil on canvas, he was excited to complete this painting and was sure that it would help him break into the Parisian market and make him famous. Little did he know that his artwork would be so heavily criticized and disliked by his peers that instead of being sold, it would become part of the Van Gogh family and then the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation and hundreds of years would pass before anyone truly appreciate this painting, but by then the tortured Dutch genius would not be able to witness any of it. The painting currently hangs in Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands and could be considered invaluable; however, its estimated value would be in the millions of dollars. The Potato Eaters marked a turning point in Van Gogh’s artistic life and is now considered his first true masterpiece. But why did Van Gogh decide to paint it? Was it a mistake that led to failure as an artist?
Van Gogh’s ‘failed’ masterpiece
Vincent van Gogh, like any other artist, expected to learn and grow more in his career. Due to poverty, he reused the canvas and practiced painting portraits of him on the back of the canvas. Another area in which he wanted to gain more experience was figure painting. he had very little experience frame full-length paintings and during that time peasants eating were a popular subject in the Dutch market. He created many preliminary sets for The Potato Eaters and visited Groot’s cabin repeatedly to capture the family having dinner. He made various sketches of a spoon rack, a piece of bread, a hand on a teapot and much more to prepare the great masterpiece. The end result shows five people gathered around a table, eating potatoes and drinking coffee. He opted to paint the features in earth tones, which he said was “something like the color of a very dusty potato, unpeeled of course.” Although painting peasants was the trend back then, van gogh he did not idealize peasant life. Perhaps because he faced such hardships in life, he wanted to convey through his artwork that the family members “have tilled the land themselves with these hands that they are putting on the plate…that they have thus honestly earned their food.” ”. The five people she painted were very close to his heart. He had become friends with them long before he decided to paint them and he kept thinking of family even after leaving Nuenen, The Netherlands. He used to write to his sister from Paris asking her about his health and well-being.
Criticism and the unfinished dream
As stated in his letters to his friends and brother, Van Gogh was highly satisfied with his work. He wanted to represent the peasants as they really were and deliberately chose crude and ugly models, thinking they would be natural and intact in his finished work. And then his world came crashing down when his peers responded negatively to his work. His friend van Rappard showed a critical disdain for the technical execution of the painting. “[W]Why can’t that man on the right have a knee or a belly or lungs? he admonished “Or are they on his back? And why must his arm be a meter too short? And why must he be missing half his nose? … Art is too important, it seems to me, to be treated with such nonchalance.” Van Gogh responded to his friend and defended the painting saying that he missed the essence of the painting “What I am trying to achieve is to be able to draw not a hand but the gesture, not a mathematically correct head but the general expression. .” No matter how van gogh he tried to explain his artwork to the world, no one understood him. The potato eaters continued to haunt Van Gogh even after he moved to France. In April 1889, following a mental health crisis, he was admitted to an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, in the south of France. It is during this confinement that he paints The starry Night – which he considered a huge flop but the world loved it. He wanted to paint another version of The Potato Eaters from his memory. She started preparing some sketches for him, but sadly no other versions were made. Before he could try again to prove himself to his peers, his mental illness took over and he allegedly shot himself in the chest. Today, The Potato Eaters is considered one of his most majestic works, a vindication of his claim that the painting was “the best thing I ever did.”
robbery and secrets
The tortured Dutch genius was a gem that wasn’t really discovered until after his death. Millions of people flock to see this painting each year and, like The Mona Lisa, this painting has been the target of several attempted thefts. In 1988, thieves stole the first version of The Potato Eaters, the Weaver’s Interior, and Dried sunflowers from the Kröller-Müller Museum for a $2.5 million ransom. However, the police managed to recover the paintings in time without paying the ransom amount. And then, in 1991, the National Vincent van Gogh Museum was stripped of twenty important paintings, including the final version of The Potato Eaters. However, the getaway car had a flat tire and the thieves were forced to flee, leaving the paintings behind. the artworks they were discovered after 35 minutes.
Money is a driving factor behind the thefts, but for art lovers who truly appreciate Van Gogh’s work, it’s the story behind the art that matters. Little is known that Van Gogh created three surviving studies of The Potato Eaters prior to his final artwork. He even printed a lithograph of the work, which he sent to his brother Theo in Paris, hoping for feedback. On top of that, Van Gogh painted 20 or more studies of Gordina de Groot, the young woman who also appears in the family group The Potato Eaters. Before van gogh began painting The Potato Eaters, moved with his parents to Nuenen in Brabant, where he produced over a hundred portrait studies of local farm workers. After all, he was a hard worker who wanted to capture the hard work of workers who struggle to put bread on his table.
next in Behind the Art: Is Garçon à la pipe (Boy with a Pipe), 1905 by Pablo Picasso, worth $104,168,000? What does it mean?