Woman Winding Yarn, 1885
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
In Nuenen, weaving was an important cottage industry. Van Gogh was much occupied by weavers and their looms, or with women spinning or winding yarn – ‘exceptionally poor folk,’ as he characterized them. In a letter to Theo he wrote: ‘Their life is hard. A weaver who stays hard at work makes a piece of about 60 yards a week. While he weaves, his wife has to sit before him, winding – in other words, winding the spools of yarn – so there are two of them who work and have to make a living from it.’ There was little work for the weavers, and they earned little from it.
The woman sits close to the window for the light; the window itself is just out of the painting. She can be identified as mother De Groot, the woman who pours coffee in The Potato Eaters.