Worn Out, 1882

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Pencil on watercolour paper, 50 x 32 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 997

'What a fine sight an old working man makes, in his patched bombazine suit with his bald head', Van Gogh wrote to his brother on 24 November 1882, with reference to this drawing. The old workman was Adrianus Zuyderland, resident of the Dutch Protestant Almshouse for Old Men and Women. In return for a small payment, various residents of the almshouse regularly spent a morning or afternoon posing for Van Gogh.

More information about "Worn Out"

Milk as fixative

Van Gogh used milk as a fixative for his pencil drawings, an idea that he almost certainly derived from reading a textbook by Armand-Théophile Cassagne (1823-1907) which recommended this technique. Milk counteracts the shine of graphite pencil marks, leaving these velvety black, an effect that Van Gogh valued highly. Cassagne advised the use of an atomizer to apply the milk. Van Gogh was less restrained, however, and threw full glasses of milk over his drawings. There is a noticeable stain around the figure in this work, where a large amount of milk has dried.


In Etten Van Gogh had already drawn a drooping figure by an extinguished fire, his care-worn head resting in his hands. In The Hague the artist experimented again with this motif. He produced three sketches of two different models and planned to develop the subject. Only this drawing has been preserved from these Hague studies.
Van Gogh gave the drawing the telling title Worn Out, and thereby joined a largely English tradition of giving a dramatic name to scenes from daily life.

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