The Potato Eaters [Vincent van Gogh]

Look Ma, no ear

Van Gogh Museum

All Vinny, all the time

Jennifer Tucker

Contributor

It was his time to shine. Vincent Van Gogh wanted The Potato Eaters to be his pièce de résistance - the one that would bring him fame and fortune.

Sadly, this desire did not come to fruition (or root vegetable-ition as the case may be). At least not during his lifetime. Nowadays this painting is considered by many to be his first masterpiece! Poor guy had to die first before his dreams could become reality. The art world is a fickle mistress like that sometimes.

Since this work was destined for glory, van Gogh knew it had to be perfect. So perfect that he actually spent two years preparing for its creation. Countless sketches, lithographs, and preliminary paintings were produced before this final version was born. Van Gogh wanted this painting to be a truly honest depiction of the life of a peasant, too. To achieve this, he recruited the ugliest models he could find…kind of a slap in the face to both the models and hardworking folk of the farmlands if you ask me.

Nonetheless, once it was completed, van Gogh knew he had achieved his goal. This was the best painting he had ever made, even if no one else at the time felt the same way. That’s one thing I think we all can agree on about van Gogh, he was relentless in the face of rejection. He didn’t let haters stop him from persevering in life. And good on him because people have come to appreciate his tenacity and vision, and this painting has become quite a desirable commodity. 

Turns out, Potato Eaters has been stolen twice. An earlier version of the painting was taken from the Kröller-Müller Museum, along with two of his other pieces: Weaver’s Interior and Dried Sunflowers. A year later, the crooks returned the Weaver’s Interior in an attempt to get a $2.5 million ransom. This plan backfired. Not surprisingly, the police proceeded to investigate the bandits and the other two paintings were quickly recovered. The second time this painting was stolen, the thieves broke into the Vincent van Gogh National Museum, jacked 20 works and then abandoned them 35 minutes after the robbery. Cold feet I guess. Either way, the work has been returned to its rightful home and now can be viewed by all!