From Dark to Light
In Paris, Vincent developed his own, well-known style with bright colours.
Biography, 1883 - 1885
Vincent moved back in with his parents, in Nuenen. Here, Vincent van Gogh painted and sketched farmers, weavers and workers. He started working on The Potato Eaters. To develop as an artist, he first moved to Antwerp for a few months and subsequently to Paris.
Vincent moved back in with his parents in December 1883. He initially worked in a small studio at the back of the house, but after a few months, he rented a larger space elsewhere in the village.
Nuenen was an ideal setting for a ‘peasant painter’. It was home to many farmers, rural labourers and weavers, who Vincent sketched and painted at every opportunity. He proposed in early 1884 that he should start giving Theo the works he produced in return for the allowance provided by his brother.
'Now I have a proposal to make for the future. Let me send you my work and you take what you want from it, but I insist that I may consider the money I would receive from you after March as money I’ve earned.'
Vincent to Theo, Nuenen, around 15 January 1884
The idea was that Theo would sell the paintings on the Paris art market, but the plan came to nothing: French tastes ran more to colour, and Vincent’s work was distinctly dark in tone. This would change, but not for a while yet.
Vincent’s parents found it hard to live with their eldest son. He was headstrong and did not dress neatly, for example. Shortly after his father died in late March 1885, Van Gogh left the family home and moved into his studio, where he started work on The Potato Eaters.
Vincent prepared “that thing with the peasants around a dish of potatoes in the evening” with many studies. Most of his money went on artist’s materials. Later that year, he decided to enrol at the academy of art in Antwerp and left the Netherlands, never to return.
Antwerp had plenty to offer Vincent: good materials, drawing clubs with models, and churches, museums and galleries stuffed with art. The drawing classes he took at the academy were, however, far too traditional for him.
'I actually find all the drawings I see there hopelessly bad — and fundamentally wrong. And I know that mine are totally different — time will just have to tell who’s right. Damn it, not one of them has any feeling for what a classical statue is.'
Vincent to Theo, Antwerp 19 or 20 January 1886
Vincent did not stay in the Flemish city for long. He arranged with Theo to come to Paris and take lessons in the studio of Fernand Cormon – an artist who was very popular with foreign students. Theo began to look for an apartment large enough for him and his brother, but before he could find one, Vincent turned up in Paris unannounced at the end of February 1886.
'My dear Theo, Don’t be cross with me that I’ve come all of a sudden. I’ve thought about it so much and I think we’ll save time this way.'
Vincent to Theo, Paris, 28 February 1886