Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Antwerp, December 1885
oil on canvas,
35.2 cm x 24.4 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
During his stay in Antwerp, Van Gogh searched for models to sit for portraits. He was hoping to profile himself as a modern painter of contemporary city life. He was particularly interested in working-class people, one of whom was the woman portrayed here. Perhaps she worked in a café and, like many impoverished women, was forced to earn extra money as a prostitute at night.
While her face evinces the traces of hard work, Van Gogh also wanted to convey her beauty. In these ‘studies of heads’ the artist was not interested in depicting an individual likeness, but rather a type. He painted the woman's face and long, loose hair with broad brushstrokes, thereby successfully introducing volume and life into them. He probably depicted the same woman in another painting as well.