Holland Working Group

The 1880-1885 period

The essential fact about Van Gogh’s early artistic development is that he initially determined its direction through his own efforts. This working group is studying the manuals that he read and the signed copies that he made of works by other artists.

In Van Gogh’s earliest original drawings (made in Etten and The Hague), he blossomed into a practiced draughtsman. Although his aim was to lay a foundation for his later paintings, drawing would always remain an indispensable part of his artistic practice.
In his earliest paintings, Van Gogh went to some lengths to emulate the style of the Hague and Barbizon Schools.

In Nuenen, Van Gogh’s painting truly began to take shape. One crucial aspect of this period is that, except for Anthon van Rappard, hardly any other artists directly influenced Van Gogh’s development. In Nuenen, Van Gogh relied very heavily on books for information, and those books (about Eugène Delacroix, for instance) are central to this story. In Drenthe and in Nuenen, Van Gogh made drawings that reveal the great skill he had achieved in this art form. His figure studies from the spring and summer of 1885 are especially noteworthy, because they display his struggle to master the depiction of volume.