'Orphan Man' with a Walking Stick
October 1882 The Hague
by Vincent van Gogh 1853 – 1890

The original of this picture is a pencil sketch and this tactile interpretation represents closely that style of drawing. Orphan Man and Orphan Woman were the local expressions for an inhabitant of the almshouses in The Hague, some of the men were possibly war heroes. Van Gogh's drawing show the sadness and the despair of his subject, much as Dickens described some poor people in his stories. This old man is wearing a hat and overcoat. Apparently he is deaf. He has large ears and “mutton Chop whiskers “ and a crooked nose. His trousers are baggy and unpressed and he is wearing a jacket under his open overcoat. Vincent van Gogh had hoped to have become a Church Minister as his father had been but Vincent, according to his tutors, was not suited to the studies. Vincent took to manual labouring, working and living as the peasant people did. He often drew or painted these people either at their work or at their rest. He identified strongly with them. In 1882 he wrote to his brother, “Being a labourer, I feel at home in the labouring classes, and more and more I will try to live and take root there. However the people were suspicious of van Gogh and in 1883 he moved to Drenthe in the north of Holland and continued his paintings. The background of this picture is a blueish grey and the figure of the man is drawn with different shades of grey going to black according to the pressure applied by the pencil. This representation is simply stitched with different thicknesses of thread showing the corresponding thickness of the pencil lines and keeping the shades of pale grey to black correct in detail.

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