Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, 1884
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
This small canvas was painted at the beginning of 1884 for Van Gogh’s mother, who had broken her thighbone in January, but it was also partly intended for his father, for the church in the picture is the one where his father had become pastor in 1882. X-rays show that initially there were no human figures in the painting except for a peasant with a spade. Later – probably not before the autumn of 1885 – the painter added the members of the congregation to the composition. He also added autumn leaves to the original bare, wintry trees, thereby making the canvas somewhat more colourful. It is not entirely clear why Van Gogh overpainted a part of the scene. The woman in the centre of the foreground, who is dressed in mourning, may provide a clue. The artist’s father died in the spring of 1885, and Van Gogh may have intended these changes to connect the painting more closely with his dead father and thereby to update it, as it were, for his mother. Please note: this painting is no longer on display, having been stolen from the museum on 7 December 2002. For more information, see the press release on the theft.