A Newly Identified Vincent Van Gogh Sketch Is Going on Display for the First Time

Vincent van Gogh continues to surprise scholars.
Vincent van Gogh continues to surprise scholars. / Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The world may never know the full extent of the work produced by the prolific Vincent van Gogh, but every now and again a new dimension to the artist is uncovered that grabs the ears of admirers. And in this most recent example, it’s one that sheds fresh light on a familiar piece.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has announced that they’ve recently uncovered a pencil sketch that looks to be a draft of the artist’s Worn Out (1882). Titled Study for Worn Out, the sketch depicts an older man hunched over, seemingly weakened by the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Study for Worn Out (1882).
Study for Worn Out (1882). / Van Gogh Museum

The 19-inch-by-12-inch piece was brought to the museum by an individual who has requested to remain anonymous: They asked to see if it could be authenticated. The museum confirmed it was the work of Van Gogh, who was working at The Hague during this period and seemed to use the same older gentleman, Adrianus Jacobus Zuyderland, as a model for many of his pencil works. Just 29 at the time, Van Gogh would often solicit the help of citizens, offering 10 cents of coffee for their contribution.

“In stylistic terms, it slots perfectly into the many figure studies we know from Van Gogh’s time in The Hague and the connection with Worn Out is obvious,” Teio Meedendorp, a senior researcher at the museum, said in a press release. “The artist began by drawing a grid on the paper, which tells us that he worked with a perspective frame to help him capture a figure quickly with the correct proportions. He then worked the sheet up in his characteristically expressive drawing style: not refined, but with energetic scratches and strokes and laying down contours, in search of a pithy image with special attention to effects of light and shade.”

Helping to confirm the piece’s authenticity are the small details, like the fact each corner of the paper seems worn. That’s consistent with how Van Gogh typically secured his sketches to his drawing board with sticky starch.

The piece is slightly different from the final version of Worn Out, with the figure’s posture shifted. Visitors to the Van Gogh Museum can see for themselves: It will be on display through January 2, 2022.

[h/t Smithsonian]