Lot 11
  • 11

Vincent Van Gogh

50,000 - 80,000 EUR
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  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Oude Man en Vrouw
  • pencil and lithographic crayon on paper
  • 47,5 by 27 cm.
  • Executed in 1882.


Acquired directly from the artist by M.A. de Zwart (1853-1922), son of P.W. de Zwart (1826-1905), Van Gogh's landlord in The Hague;
By whom sold to Hubert Paulus, Baron van Tuyll van Serooskerken (1883-1958);
Sale, Amsterdam, Frederik Muller & Cie, 25 and 26 November 1913, lot 127
Where bought by Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939);
By whom presented to Jantina Pownall-Kisjes (1891-1988) on the occasion of her marriage to Clifford Henry Pownall (1889-1972) on 8 June 1914;
Thence by descent to her nephew, the present owner in 1974.


Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, February - March 2008


M. Vellekoop, "A newly discovered drawing by Van Gogh", in: The Burlington Magazine, February 2008, pp. 106-109, illustrated
T. Meedendorp, Drawings and prints by Vincent van Gogh in the collection of the Kröller-Müller museum, Otterlo 2007, pp. 164-179
S. van Heugten, Vincent van Gogh. Drawings. Volume 1. The early years 1880-1883, Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam and Bussum 1996.
J. Hulsker, The new complete Van Gogh. Paintings, drawings, sketches, Amsterdam and Philadelphia 1996
E.N. Heenk, Vincent van Gogh's drawings. An analysis of their production and uses, PhD thesis, Courtauld Institite of Art, University of London, 1995, pp. 66-74, p. 258
H. van Crimpen and M. Berends-Albert, eds., Verzamelde brieven van Vincent van Gogh, The Hague 1990
J.-B. de la Faille, The works of Vincent van Gogh. His paintings and drawings, Amsterdam 1970
V.W. van Gogh, ed. Verzamelde brieven van Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam and Antwerp, 1952-54.


Condition report by official paper restorer available upon request.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

All Van Gogh researchers have been blissfully unaware of the existence of the current drawing until recently.  Since the appearance of De La Faille's catalogue raisonné in 1970 this is only the eighth drawing that can be positively added to the oeuvre. Because of the rarity of such a discovery, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam devoted a special presentation to this newly discovered drawing in February and March of this year.  

Old man and woman can be dated to November or December 1882 when Van Gogh was working in The Hague. At that time Van Gogh was focusing his attention on studying the model, both single figures as well as two or more models together:

 "Working with a model can de done much better here than in the other studio [the artist had just moved house] – I can even work with more than one person at a time, for example two children under an umbrella, two women who stand talking, a man and a woman arm in arm, &c"(Letter 273 [238], circa 10 October 1882).

For similar drawings of multiple figure studies see: Seated Old man with child (F971; private collection), Man and woman at the doorstep (F989; Kröller-Müller museum, Otterlo), and Old man and woman seen from the back (F991; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

Like many artists at the start of their career, Van Gogh concentrated on drawing, acknowledging the importance of first mastering the craft of drawing before starting to paint: "Drawing is the backbone of all art". The majority of drawings he ever made were independent works of art in their own right. The drawing as direct preparatory study for paintings plays a minor role. According to Van Gogh, it was "as incorrect as it can be" to consider drawing as a preparatory study: to him it was an independent medium with distinctive expressive possibilities. [Letter 259 (226) 19 August 1882].

Van Gogh was never short of a supply of models after he had discovered the Dutch Reformed Old Men- and Women's House in the neighbourhood of his house. The residents of this home were willing to pose for him for very little money and had a lot of time to spare. One of his favourite models was Adrianus Jacobus Zuyderland (1810-1897), an old man with a bald head, impressive side-whiskers and big ears. Zuyderland, often referred to by Van Gogh as "the orphan man", can be recognized on many The Hague drawings, as well as on the current one. Although the woman has similar features as the one in Head of a woman (F1009) in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, we cannot establish her identity. She may be a fellow resident of the old people's home. On 8 October 1882 Van Gogh wrote: "I've done more of the orphan man since. And this week I hope to get a woman from the home as well." (Letter 272 [236], 8 October 1882).

Van Gogh made quite a few figure drawings between mid-September and the end of December 1882, the majority of which are in the collections of the Van Gogh museum and the Kröller-Müller museum. They are not easily datable within this period of time, but the current drawing must be datable to November or December 1882 as his technique had improved by that time and the compositions were more complicated. He even provided an illusion of background in the current drawing.

The materials used in this drawing are characteristic for the period. The carpenter's pencil was his favourite drawing medium because it suited his robust way of working. Considering the fact that he sometimes used considerable force, he preferred a rather heavy-quality, rough textured drawing paper that could withstand the vigorous handling of the carpenter's pencil. The pencil drawing was rubbed gently in places with lithographic crayon.

Van Gogh drawings from The Hague period that are still in private hands nowadays are rather rare. With their often powerful, rather angular style, they testify to the inate and raw creativity of the artist as a young man.

The drawing has a great provenance that can be traced right back to Van Gogh's lifetime. The current owner received the drawing from his great aunt, who, in turn, received it from Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939), the well-known art collector. Mrs Kröller-Müller bought Old man and woman at a Frederik Muller sale in 1913. The consignor was a close friend of Van Gogh's landlord. It is unknown how precisely this drawing as well as others by Van Gogh ended up with his landlord. It is well possible that Van Gogh paid his rent by means of drawings. Another possibility is that it was among the drawings that the artist left behind in the attic when he moved to Drenthe.

We kindly thank Dr. E.N. Heenk for her help in cataloguing this lot.