Old men and women

To practice figure drawing during his period in The Hague, Van Gogh uses men and women from a nearby old people’s home as models. They earn a small fee and have plenty of time to sit for him in various poses: standing, sitting, leaning, drinking coffee or smoking a pipe.

Forceful lines and highlights

Van Gogh is pleased with these models, whose expressions are full of character due to the hard lives they have behind them. Their actions, poses and characteristic features are sharply rendered in forceful pencil lines and highlighting, which capture the volume of the figures particularly well.

Looking for employment

He practices so diligently because he hopes to earn his living as an illustrator. In a letter to his brother Theo he writes: ‘If for my part I fill my portfolios with studies from the models that I can grab or catch, I’ll get something to show so that I’ll be eligible, I hope, to be given employment’.