Van Gogh was keenly interested in peasant life, but he did not often paint ploughmen. Given the subject and composition, this painting seems to correspond to a drawing of a ploughman that he made in mid-October 1883, when he was staying in Drenthe. But not long after the painting was added to the collection in 1949, well-founded suspicions arose regarding its authenticity.
Van Gogh’s brushwork is characterized by the fact that every brushstroke has a beginning and an end, as it were, and is independently distinct. In this work, the painted surface is instead smoothed out. Moreover, the use of colour is not as varied as in his earlier works from this period, but remarkably even in tone. And finally: the composition is far more complex than in Van Gogh’s drawing. It seems unlikely that he would have attempted such a difficult composition during his period in Drenthe.
The painting is signed Vincent in orange paint in the bottom left corner. A technical study has established that the signature was applied at a later stage. The paint under the signature has been scraped off, possibly removing another signature. It is unknown who painted Ploughman.