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Van Gogh Cottages and Huts

by VanGoghology

Human Nests

Vincent referred to the Cottages he painted as “Human Nests” or “Huts,” many of which were located in and around Drenth and Nuenen – This period is considered his early period and lasted between 1883 and 1885.

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In 2014, a group of archaeologists and researchers led an expedition to the vicinity and found two very old black alder trees that were a short distance from each other, along with a small farmhouse. The researchers noted that their finding was reminiscent of Van Gogh’s painting “Hut with man coming home” (JH 824).

Other huts were also spotted, which may well have been “Woman with Goat” (JH 823), “Dilapidated Barn and a Bending Woman” (JH 825), and “Hut with Digging Woman” or “Cottage with Peasant Woman Digging” (JH 803).

They had determined that the Digging Woman was likely Catharina Helena Bruininga, an old spinster whom Vincent noted goes by the name of “Witch’s Head,” in his letters to Theo. Catharina was born Nov 28, 1822, in Grave, North Brabant, and died Dec 2, 1918, at aged 96 in Tongelre, North Brabant in the Netherlands

In a letter to Theo dated July 1885, Vincent wrote, “I’ve never seen the little house where Millet lived — but I imagine that these four little human nests are of the same kind. One of them is the residence of a gentleman who’s popularly known here as ‘the peasant of Rauwveld’ — the other is occupied by a worthy soul who, when I went there, was engaged in nothing more mysterious than turning over her potato patch, but must also be able to work magic, though — at any rate she goes by the name of ‘the witch’s head.’“

Researchers determined that the peasant was likely Johan van Lith, the owner of a piece of land in Tongelre (near Nuenen) known as ‘Rouwveldje’ or ‘Raauwvelden’… And quite possibly the subject of Cottage with peasant coming home (F 170 / JH 824).

Van Gogh’s portrayal of cottages in his paintings encourages us to perceive the aesthetic appeal in ordinary scenes, fostering an appreciation for the unadorned and captivating aspects of country existence. Through his distinctive viewpoint and artistic creativity, he elevates these modest residences into masterpieces that vividly depict the challenging existence of the community members.

Undoubtedly, Vincent’s portrayal of The Potato Eaters stands out as one of his most renowned cottage paintings. Van Gogh’s decision to concentrate on the potato eaters underscores the significance of nourishment and subsistence in the existence of these impoverished individuals. The potato, which was a fundamental source of sustenance for numerous individuals during that period, represents both their battle for existence and their ability to endure in the midst of hardship.

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