Sober and simple
This study shows how Van Gogh likes to see the peasant: sober and simple. After a hard day’s work on the land, he eats his meagre meal comprising the fruits of his labour. The artist does not aim to idealize peasant life. For him, the coarse features, low forehead and thick lips symbolize the raw, sincere existence of the man.
Man at table is a preliminary study for the masterpiece that Van Gogh would paint shortly thereafter: The potato eaters. In this study he practices depicting a figure that is only partially illuminated. Light touches of colour on his clothing and face describe the man’s profile in the dim light of the cottage.
The De Groot-van Rooij family
The model is Francis (Sis) van Rooij, the uncle of one of Van Gogh’s female models, Gordina de Groot. He, together with his unmarried brother and sister, lives with his sister and her husband Cornelis de Groot. The De Groot-van Rooij family, where Van Gogh is a regular guest, served as the model for The potato eaters.