‘The Potato Eaters’ is actually very colourful
When you look at The Potato Eaters, the painting seems to be made up mostly of grey-brown-greenish colours. Slightly muddy tones, all more or less the same. But Van Gogh had to use a whole lot of different colours to achieve them.
He read about ‘broken tones’ in a textbook, which explained about mixing two complementary colours (ones that intensify each other). Red and green, for instance, or orange and blue. If you mix them in equal amounts, you get grey. If the quantities aren’t the same, you end up with a colour with a greyish tint. Grey-pink, say, or grey-green like we find in the cap of one of the women. Van Gogh hoped in this way to achieve a colourful effect in a dark painting. So there’s a lot more colour here than you might think!