Van Gogh learns the basics of painting from his cousin by marriage Anton Mauve. Mauve has him paint still lifes, as this is the easiest genre to begin with. A few years later, when Van Gogh has four students of his own – the goldsmith Antoon Hermans, the tanner Anton Kerssemakers, the telegraph operator Willem van de Wakker and Dimmen Gestel – he reverts to this tried and tested approach.

Hermans’ collection

Antoon Hermans has a collection of jars, pots, bowls, vases and bottles that the painters use for their still lifes. His role as a teacher encourages Van Gogh to take up still life painting again himself and he paints enthusiastically with his students. The tobacco pot and bearded-man jar shown here are probably from Hermans’ collection.

Tubes of paint

Initially, Van Gogh receives nothing for his work as a teacher, but he intends to ‘gradually get people to pay something – not in money, however, but by telling them you must give me tubes of paint. Because I want to paint a lot – continually, and I want to get to a position where I no longer have to work at half speed – but can paint from morning till night’.