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Old Man and Woman

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Pencil and lithographic crayon
47.5 x 27.5 cm.
The Hague: November-December, 1882
No F or JH numbers

Private collection

See below

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The most recent De la Faille catalogue raisonné of Vincent van Gogh's works was published in 1970 and since then only seven other newly attributed drawings by Van Gogh have surfaced.

Van Gogh produced this drawing in November or December, 1882 while living in The Hague. Van Gogh was passionate about painting and drawing people, but was often unable to find subjects that pleased him. That changed after he moved to The Hague where he was able to draw the woman he lived with, Sien Hoornik, as well as her children. Van Gogh was also excited to discover a rich, new source of material for his figure drawings: the Dutch Reformed Old Men-and-Women's House. Van Gogh felt that the elderly residents had interesting faces and they agreed to pose for very little payment.

One of Van Gogh's favourite subjects at the old people's home was Adrianus Zuyderland. Zuyderland would pose for Van Gogh on several occasions: sometimes in formal wear and sometimes wearing fisherman's clothing. For more on Adrianus Zuyderland's background and the various drawings he appears in, see the InSites page Orphan Man with Top Hat.

Although most of the drawings Van Gogh produced in this period featured lone figures, he did, as is the case with this new drawing, occasionally focus on more than one figure:

Table 1: Examples of Multiple Figures in Van Gogh's Drawings (The Hague period)

Title F JH Location Thumbnail
Orphan Man, Sitting with a Girl 971 250 Private collection

Orphan Man Talking with Woman 989 315 Otterlo: Kröller-Müller Museum

Man and Woman Seen from the Back 991 233 Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

In contrast to the three drawings in the table above, this new drawing isn't executed with as much precision or attention to detail as the others. As the Van Gogh Museum's curator of drawings, Marije Vellekoop, writes:

The unresolved, slightly clumsy character of Old man and woman suggests that the drawing was a study or experiment. The faces are not rendered in detail, an earlier contour to the left of the man's face was not removed and the trouser-legs and especially the sleeves are depicted like cylindrical sheaths, with little attention to the folds. Other indications of the experimental nature of this drawing are the absence of traces of a grid (from a perspective frame) and the lack of any milk fixative, which were characteristic of Van Gogh's more ambitious drawings.

The Van Gogh Museum, together with the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, undertook stylistic analysis, historical research and technical examination to determine the authenticity of this drawing. For example, it's known that eighteen Van Gogh drawings were included in a sale at Frederik Muller & Cie in Amsterdam in November, 1913. Of the eighteen drawings, seventeen have been identified as specific Van Gogh drawings that are included in his oeuvre today. Of the one remaining drawing the details are a perfect match for Old Man and Woman. The Frederik Muller & Cie catalogue listed the remaining, previously unknown drawing as:

  • Description: "Van Gogh's landlord turned to the left, leaning on his cane and holding a pipe in his hand, conversing with a woman carrying a shopping baket in her right hand."

  • Medium: "Drawing in pencil and crayon. Framed."

  • Dimensions: "Height 47.5, width 27.5 centimeters."

As a result, this research, along with the provenance shown below which links the drawing back to the artist's lifetime, determined that this newly discovered drawing is genuine.

Source: Marije Vellekoop, A newly discovered drawing by Van Gogh: The Burlington Magazine, February, 2008 (pp. 106-09).


Owner City Country Date acquired Comments Auction house City
P.W. de Zwart The Hague Netherlands  
Owner of the boarding house where Van Gogh lived in The Hague.  
M.A. de Zwart Voorburg Netherlands  
Son of P.W. de Zwart.  
Hubert Paulus Voorburg Netherlands  
Baron van Tuyll van Serooskerken  
H. Kröller-Müller The Hague Netherlands 25 or 26 November 1913  
Frederik Muller & Cie. Amsterdam
Jantina Pownall-Kisjes  
8 June 1914 Given by Helene Kröller-Müller on the occasion of Pownall-Kisjes’ marriage to Clifford Henry Pownall.  
Private collection  
1974 Nephew of Jantina Pownall-Kisjes.  
Private collection  
25 June 2008   Sotheby's
Private collection  
5 May 2011   Christie's
New York

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