A new Vincent Van Gogh piece was discovered recently on the 16th September 2021. Depicting an old laborer in a chair with his head in his hands, it is a study for one of the famously troubled artists most well known pieces, “Worn Out,” drawn some eight years before the artists’ death in 1890. Found to be in the possession of a private collector, it was put on display on Thursday for the first time in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Talking to Reuters, the director of the museum, Emilie Gordenker, spoke of Van Gogh’s “interest in the ordinary person, he was also looking to express emotion.”
Finds of this magnitude are rare, especially almost a century and a half after the artist’s death. Depicting a scene later rendered in “Worn Out,” it was relatively easy to authenticate, as it was drawn on watermarked paper, and included in letters from around the time Van Gogh was living in the Hague, still learning his craft. Drawing from life, the artist would go on to make dozens of pieces while in that region, practicing and perfecting his understanding of posing, proportions and facial expressions
Other signs point to this being a Van Gogh piece as well. Stylistically, it has the same quick, scratchy line work the artist became known for.
In regards to materials, the use of water color paper and carpenters pencil, the artists favorite, as well as damage in the corners on the back of the piece that indicate that it was affixed to an easel with balls of starch, are all indicative of the Dutch artist.
Writing about the piece later in a letter to his brother Theo in November of 1882, Van Gogh himself said “what a fine sight an old man makes, in a patched bombazine suit with his bald head.” According to the Van Gogh Museum, residents of the Dutch Reformed Almshouse for Men and Women would pose for the artist in their well worn clothing in exchange for small payments.
In another letter to a colleague, Van Gogh expressed his plan to make the piece into a lithograph, which he accomplished some days later, titling it “At Eternity’s Gate.”
Vincent Van Gogh gave the piece a name in English, as he hoped it would increase the likelihood of him earning a post as an illustrator in a magazine, hopes that, unfortunately, would never come to pass.
On display until January 6th, the study will be able for viewing at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.