Vincent van Gogh

(1853 - 1890)
Backyards with two figures, 1882 (Faille 939a; Hulsker 920)
Backyards with two figures, 1882 (Faille 939a; Hulsker 920)
charcoal on paper
23.9 x 35.2 cm


C.M. Van Gogh Art Gallery, The Hague
J.H. de Bois Art Gallery, Haarlem
Mrs L. Jaray-Bondi, Vienna & London (acquired in 1938) Private Collection, New York
Galerie St. Etienne (Otto Kallir), New York (acquired in 1953) Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, 10th May 1989, lot 120 Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


Haarlem, J.H. de Bois Art Gallery, 1936, no. 15
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Masters of the Nineteenth Century, 1955, (illus.). New York, Wildenstein & Co., Van Gogh, Loan Exhibition, 1955, no. 82
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, European and American Landscapes, 1985 Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin & Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Linie, Licht und Schatten. Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen
der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 1999, no. 106 (illus.) Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La passion du dessin. Collection Jan et Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2002, no. 132 (illus.).
Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung
Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 46 (illus.).


Jacob Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh, His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. 939a, illustrated p. 351
Jan Hulsker, The Complete van Gogh, Paintings-Drawings-Sketches, New York, 1980, no. 120, illustrated p. 37

Philip Rylands, The Timeless Eye. Master Drawings from the Jan and Marie- Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection (exhibition catalogue), Berlin, 1999, illustrated p. 418

At the end of 1881, Vincent van Gogh left his family home in Etten and settled in the Hague, where he lived until September 1883. During this period he worked diligently to improve his drawing technique, and was particularly anxious to master the human figure. The most successful works of this period, however, are a group of views of the Hague and surrounding landscapes and village scenes, including the present study of a yard with a young girl and woman. This sheet was among a set of drawings bought by the art dealer Cornelius M. Van Gogh, Vincent’s uncle— known as ‘Uncle Cor,’ or ‘C.M.,’ in Vincent and Theo’s correspondence. In a letter to Theo of March 11, 1882, Vincent writes: “…C.M comes, orders 12 small pen drawings from me, views of the Hague, having seen a few that were finished, for a rijksdaalder apiece, the price set by me. With the promise that if I make them to his liking he’ll order 12 more, but for which he’ll fix the price higher than I do.” (Van Gogh, The Complete Letters, Jansen et. al., Van Gogh Museum, 2009-2010, letter 210),  work. Train stations, gasworks, and factories were among his subjects, along with peasant gardens, parks, shops, city streets, and commercial squares. In drawings such as Backyards with Two Figures, one also sees evidence of Van Gogh’s intensive studies of pictorial perspective during these years, and his devotion, as a self-taught artist, to drawing manuals such as those of Armand Cassagne. The grid-like structure of the motif and the precisely receding orthogonal lines of the wooden posts and vegetation were partly the result of Van Gogh’s use of a perspective frame, a device that Cassagne recommended for studying motifs on site. Two letters of 1882 from Vincent to Theo include renderings of his perspective frame, a rectangular opening divided by strings.

While these early drawings are more conventional in their approach to composition and mark-making than Van Gogh’s drawings of the later 1880s, they share the later drawings’ expressive and pictorial energy. As Colta Ives has written:

One discovers, in even such early, halting landscape drawings, traits that characterize van Gogh’s Van Gogh’s latest, spontaneously cursive ones. His impulse appears to have been to blanket a sheet with marks, but to do so strictly within its limits, a keen awareness of the paper’s edges holding penwork within bounds, like a charged fence.

(Colta Ives, “Out of Line: How Van Gogh Made His Mark” in Van Gogh, The Drawings, exh. cat., New York, 2005, p. 9.)

Inv.Nr. 1467