This work was made in Nuenen in late spring 1885, just after Van Gogh completed The Potato Eaters (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), in the same dark hues that reminded the artist of “green soap” or “a really dusty potato, unpeeled of course.” Van Gogh was “convinced that in the long run it produces better results to paint [peasants] in their coarseness than to introduce conventional sweetness… If a peasant painting smells of bacon, smoke, potato steam—fine—that’s not unhealthy—if a stable smells of manure—very well, that’s what a stable’s for.”
Amédée Schuffenecker, Paris and Clamart (by 1901–at least 1907); Auguste Pellerin, Paris; [Eugène Blot, Paris, by 1933–37; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 2, 1933, no. 49, as “Devant l’âtre,” bought in; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 23, 1937, no. 69, as “Devant l’âtre”]; Levy-Hermanos, Paris (by 1939–at least 1947); Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer Hays, Norwalk, Conn. (by 1955–84)
La Faille [see Ref. 1970] dates this picture to the artist’s Nuenen period, May 1885 or slightly later. At about the same time, Van Gogh made several drawings with similar compositions, depicting the same model and interior. Those closest to the present picture include F1288 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) and F1291 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo). Eugène Druet photograph, pl. 73, no. 30/40–2970, ca. 1900–1910 (Collection Le fonds Druet-Vizzavona, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Fort de Saint-Cyr, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France). Probably shot during Exh. Paris 1905.