A Pair of Shoes, 1886

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 37.5 X 45 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 255


This painting of a pair of down-at-heel shoes prompts speculation on a variety of psychological questions. They have been seen as symbolizing Van Gogh’s difficult passage through life.

A fellow student in Paris reported that Vincent bought these workman’s boots at a flea market, intending to use them in a still life. Finding them still a little too smart, however, he wore them on a long and rainy walk. Only then were they fit to be painted.

Van Gogh made a number of still lives with old shoes. To him, as to several of his contemporaries, they may have been symbolic of the hard yet picturesque life of the laborer.

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