"The model posing [...] was [...] Clasina (Sien) Hoornik, whom he had met shortly after his arrival in The Hague and had taken in with her daughter afterwards. [...]
There were originally three versions of this drawing Sorrow, of which two survive. In early April 1882 Van Gogh sent one of them to Theo, referring to it as "the best figure I have drawn yet" (186)." [a128]. This version is lost. The other surviving version is F929, a version given to Anthon van Rappard in appreciation of a gift of 2.50 guilders to repair a tear in another drawing. A larger version Vincent completed by 1 May 1882 is also lost (see Letter 222). Finally there there are three extant impressions of a lithograph F1655 dated November 1882.
While doing the first study, Van Gogh had used two sheets of paper as underlays. After finding out that the contour had been imprinted on the underneath, he finished two more versions and sent one of them to his brother. The drawing shown by this file was identified by Roland Dorn to be the original, which the artist very probably kept for himself:
At the lower margin, he quoted from Jules Michelet's treatise "La Femme" (1860) by the words: "Comment se fait-il qu'il y ait sur la terre une femme seule?"
[The worst fate for a woman is to live alone. Alone! Just to pronounce the word is sad.]
"And how on earth does it happen that a woman is alone?" [end of quoted line] [Are there no longer any men? Have we arrived at the end of the world?]
Sien was pregnant with a a son at that time. Van Gogh added "délaissée" (abandoned) to the words of Michelet [see lower right corner].
Jan Hulsker thought the drawing was influenced (in terms of its emphasis on contour) by Plate 24 of Charles Bargue'sExercises au fusain [exercises in charcoal drawing] section from his renowned Cours de dessin [Drawing Course], (1871).
In letter 224 to Theo, he says: "Last winter I met a pregnant woman, deserted by the man whose child she was carrying. A pregnant woman who walked the streets in the winter -- she had her bread to earn, you'll know how. I took that woman on as a model and have worked with her all winter. I couldn't pay her a model's full daily wages, but I paid her rent all the same, and thus far, thank God, I have been able to save her and her child from hunger and cold by sharing my own bread with her."
From same sujet, Van Gogh drew also one larger version, as he noted in letter 222, where he claimed it "to express something of the struggle for life". That one (and one of the first drawings) are thought to be lost. By November 1882, he made a lithograph from same sujet, of which three impressions are known.
There were originally three versions, of which one is lost. This version is in chalk and is presumably not the pencil version sent to his brother Theo, because he recommended fixing that (pencil) version with milk (which would have course ruined a chalk drawing) in Letter 217. The other surviving version F929 he gave to Anthon van Rappard. This version F929a must therefore be the version he kept for himself, while Theo's is lost. See also Letter 216. A larger version he completed by 1 May 1882 is also lost (see Letter 222). There are three extant impressions of a lithograph F1655 dated November 1882.
The model was Clasina Maria Hoornik with whom Vincent was in a relationship during much of his time at the Hague (indeed the only such domestic relationship he was ever to hold).
216 To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Monday, 10 April 1882. Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. "Today I sent you 1 drawing by post which I’m sending to you as a token of gratitude for so much that you’ve done for me during this otherwise hard winter. Last summer, when you had that large woodcut by Millet, ‘the shepherdess’, I thought: how much one can do with one single line! Naturally I don’t presume to say as much as Millet with a single outline. But I’ve nevertheless tried to put some sentiment into this figure. Now I only hope that this figure is to your liking. And now you see at the same time that I’m hard at work. Now that I’ve started, I’d like to make around 30 studies of the nude.
The enclosed is, I think, the best figure I’ve drawn, that’s why I thought I’d send it to you.
This isn’t the study from the model and yet it’s directly from the model. You should know that I had two sheets underneath my paper. Well, I’d toiled to get the outlines right and when I took the drawing off the plank it was very cleanly impressed on the two underlying sheets and then I immediately worked it up after the first study, so that this one is even fresher than the first.
I’ve kept the other two and wouldn’t like to part with them."
231 To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Saturday, 27 May 1882. Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. "Rappard’s visit cheered me up; he seems to be working hard.
He gave me 2.50 guilders because he saw a tear in a drawing and said, you should have that repaired. I know, I said, but I haven’t got the money and the drawing must be sent off. Then he said straightaway that he’d be glad to give it to me, and I could have had more but I didn’t want to, and I gave him a pile of woodcuts and a drawing [this drawing Sorrow F929] in return. It was one of those meant for C.M. [Cornelis Marius van Gogh (Uncle Cor), bookseller and art dealer in Amsterdam], and so I was very glad to be able to get it repaired, because it was the best of them all.
That same drawing may be sold later for 50 guilders or so, and now — I hadn’t got the money to have a tear in it repaired.
I do hope, brother, that you don’t think badly of Sien and me. ... [Vincent later paid Rappard back in full (letter 236). The drawing fetched £1,329,250 at a Christie's sale in 2012."
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