Research 2014 - Vincent van Gogh - Landscape with ploughman

Vincent van Gogh - Landscape with ploughman
Vincent van Gogh - Landscape with ploughman
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Research 2014
  • June 2014
  • September 2014
June 2014
Vincent van Gogh and Léon Augustin Lhermitte - a comparison

Top: the researched painting. Bottom: a work by Léon Augustin Lhermitte

Top: the researched painting (close-up). Bottom: a work by Léon Augustin Lhermitte

Vincent Van Gogh wrote that:

"If every month Le Monde Illustré published one of his compositions... it would be a great pleasure for me to be able to follow it. It is certain that for years I have not seen anything as beautiful as this scene by L'hermitte... I am too preoccupied by L'hermitte this evening to be able to talk of other things."
Vincent Van Gogh admired Lhermitte immensely, and often refers to Lhermitte's work in his letters. For instance in a letter to Theo Van Gogh in July 1885 Vincent mentions Lhermitte by name no fewer than 8 times, ranking him among "the great": "to my mind, Millet and Lhermitte are the true artists, because they do not paint things as they are, examined in a dry analytical manner, but as they, Millet, Lhermitte, Michelangelo, feel them to be."

See Henriet, Le Peintre Léon Lhermitte et son oeuvre gravé, and Henriet, Les Eaux-fortes de Léon Lhermitte.

While studying van Gogh’s letters, particularly letter nr. 496 (source:, I’ve stumbled upon the work „Le labourage (Ploughing)” by Léon Augustin Lhermitte.
Lhermitte fascinated van Gogh to a great extent and he influenced van Gogh’s works of the period 1883-1885.
A number of compositions by van Gogh were inspired by Lhermitte.

Van Gogh put Lhermitte’s composition (ploughman with a pair of horses) into his painting and turned it the other way around. It’s an example of Van Gogh using the style and composition from that French artist.

It is most certain for Van Gogh researchers that it cannot be an accidental comparison.
September 2014
Research of the writing on the painting's frame

On the upper part of the frame, there is a writing that can be seen in IR-Light. The pencil writing can be read as "Entre 13 28". Its handwriting matches the one from the writing on the back of the painting. It shows that both writings were written by the same person.

Frame of the painting, a visible writing "Entre 13 28" on the upper part of the frame.

Close Up

Back of the painting

Back of the painting - close up

We've also made a new digital RTG (xray) photograph of the painting in the National Museum in Krakow, at the Laboratory of Analysis and Nondestructive Investigation of Heritage Objects (LANBOZ).
Just like on the previous analog RTG (xray) photograph, there are bright, vertical objects in the bottom left hand corner (perhaps a group of three figures).

Digital xray of the painting

Close up - bottom left hand corner

The Numbering of Van Gogh’s Letters

Searching through materials and sources, in hopes of finding the author of the pencil writings present on the back of the painting, as well as those on the back of the painting’s frame, I’ve stumbled upon an article in the German newspaper “Die Zeit”… (source:

"819 Briefe hinterließ der Maler bei seinem Tod im Juli 1890. Mehr als 90 Prozent von ihnen befinden sich, weil sie, in ihren charakteristischen  gelben Umschlägen, an Theo van Gogh adressiert worden waren, heute in klimatisierten feuerfesten Schubfächern im Kellertresor des Van Gogh Museums in Amsterdam. Als ein halbes Jahr nach seinem Bruder auch Theo van Gogh starb, übernahm dessen Witwe Johanna van Gogh die Aufgabe der Nachlassverwalterin für beide. Aus dem Inhalt versuchte sie, die ursprüngliche Reihenfolge zu rekonstruieren. Bis heute tragen die Originalbriefe am Rand ihre handschriftliche Nummerierung."

Letter no. 267

Letter no. 276

Letter no. 302

The writing on the back of the painting:

The writing on the back of the painting's frame:

Johanna van Gogh-Bonger had numbered all of Vincent van Gogh’s letters, and so we’ve compared her handwriting with the date 82 on the back of the researched painting. The similarities between the numbering of the letters and the writings present on the back of the researched painting and the back of its frame are striking. It seems that we have proof that these writings on the back of the painting as well as on its frame were executed by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger herself. The dates 82 and 83 are written the same way.

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