Damage from blobs of starch confirm drawing is by Van Gogh

Study for Worn Out: private collection
Study for Worn Out: private collection

The Van Gogh Museum has authenticated a drawing by Vincent van Gogh in what it calls a ‘rare addition’ to the artist’s oeuvre.

Museum experts are convinced the work, whose owner wishes to remain anonymous, is a preliminary study for a drawing Van Gogh made in 1882 called Worn Out. It depicts an exhausted man sitting on a chair with his head in his hands.

Van Gogh made the drawing in The Hague where he was studying under the painter Anton Mauve. The man in the picture is a resident of an old people’s home who would often pose for Van Gogh for a small sum of money. He appears in over 40 of Van Gogh’s drawings.

‘There is so much beauty in an old workman like him, with his mended twill suit and his bald pate,’ Van Gogh wrote in one of his letters.

Van Gogh mentioned the drawing in a letter to his brother Theo. ‘You remember that drawing Worn Out. I did it over again recently, as many as three times with two models and I’m going to work it even more.’

Senior investigator at the Van Gogh Museum Teio Meedendorp said the style of the drawing fits in perfectly with the kind of work the artist produced in The Hague at the time.

‘It shows the expressive way of drawing which is so characteristic of Van Gogh, not refined but using energetic scratches and lines, defining contours, looking for a strong visual statement with an eye for the effects of light and dark, ‘Meedendorp said.

Van Gogh’s material also confirms his creatorship, Meedendorp said, from his use of a thick carpenters pencil to the kind of paper he used and his way of fixating the drawing with a mix of milk and water. The damage to the corners at the back of the drawing indicate Van Gogh’s habit of attached the paper to his drawing board using four small blobs of starch.

The study and the final drawing will be on show at the Van Gogh Museum from Friday along with other work from the same period.

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