Lot 336
  • 336

Vincent van Gogh

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
1,314,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Water Mill at Opwetten
  • oil on canvas laid down on panel


Collection Tabingh Sauermondt, Velp
Galerie d'ar Oldenzeel, Rotterdam
Mrs J.J.E. Issel de Schepper (née Tabingh Sauermont) (sale: Sotheby's, London, 30th March 1966, lot 40)
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


Jacob-Baart de la Faille, LŒuvre de Vincent van Gogh, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1928, no. 48, illustrated pl. XIII
Walter Vanbeselaere, De Hollandsche periode (1880-1885), Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1937, illustrated pp. 284, 330 & 414
Jacob-Baart de la Faille, Vincent Van Gogh, Belgium, 1939, no. 52, illustrated p. 66 (titled Epoque de Nuenen
The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, London, 1958, vol. II, letters 385 & 386 
Marc Edo Tralbaut, Vincent van Gogh, New York, illustrated p. 135
Jacob-Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. F48, illustrated p. 60
Paolo Lecaldano, Tout l'œuvre peint de Van Gogh (1881-1888), 1971, Milan, vol. I, no. 139, illustrated p. 102
Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1977, no. 527, illustrated p. 123
Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Oxford, 1980, no. 527, illustrated p. 123
Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Revised and enlarged edition of the Catalogue Raisonné of the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1996, no. 527, illustrated p. 123 
Ingo F. Walther & Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh, The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 2001, vol I, illustrated p. 55

Catalogue Note

As an insight into the development of an artist’s œuvre, Water Mill at Opwetten is a compelling piece. It is one of Van Gogh's first investigations into oil painting with the earthy palette and Realist subject demonstrating a close connection to his earliest masterpiece, The Potato Eaters (1885, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). The sympathetically portrayed rural landscape recalls the work of earlier Dutch masters such as Jacob van Ruisdael, while also reflecting the artist’s own political ideals. Inspiration for this work appears to have been brought about through conversation with Anthon van Rappart, with correspondence (letter 448) referring to the two artists visiting three water mills around Nuenen in early 1884. Towards the end of this year, Van Gogh finally began to gain confidence in his technique, writing to his brother: 'I can safely say that I’ve progressed in painting technique and in colour since your visit. And this will continue to improve, too.' (letter 469) with the thick impasto and subtle colouring of the present work attesting to this statement.

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.