Collecting prints

During his stay in The Hague, from December 1881 to September 1883, Van Gogh starts collecting prints, mainly from The Graphic. In the section ‘Heads of the People’, this English illustrated magazine publishes a series of characteristic portraits of workers, which appeal to him greatly. Once in Nuenen, he seeks to capture the peasants and weavers in his own ‘Heads of the People’.

Brown and green tones

He paints this head of a woman wet-on-wet, with broad impasto brushstrokes on a cream-coloured ground layer. The rest of the work is painted remarkably smoothly, by Van Gogh’s standards. For the face and hat, he uses more or less the same warm earth tones. These form a nice contrast with the various shades of green in the background and the shawl. 

Characteristic head

Van Gogh has only partially elaborated the woman’s face. Her right eye is barely visible, only a curve in the paint can be seen in relief. The highlight in the left eye gives her something of a deathly, staring expression. Nevertheless, he succeeds in painting a characteristic head.