On 4th December 1883, Van Gogh set off on foot from Drenthe for his parent’s house in Nuenen where, still in turmoil after separating from Sien Hoornik, a pregnant ‘washerwoman’ with whom he had been closely involved, he sought to seek solace and re-evaluate his art: ‘I thought that being at home again might give me a more accurate insight into the question of what I should do’ (letter 475). Many of his landscapes from this period depict dark and solitary buildings that appear to reflect the isolation he was feeling following the break-up, with this work being no exception. He remained in Brabant for almost two years using his parent’s mangle room as a studio while closely studying the landscape and the impoverished local populace for whom he felt such sympathy. During this period Van Gogh also depicted peasants at work, particularly weavers, and the watermill’s connotations of labour is emphasised here by the inclusion of figures bent under sacks. Through this early work, the viewer bears witness to the machinations of a master painter in his formative years regarding both technique and subject matter.
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