National Gallery's early Christmas present: Vincent van Gogh's Head of a Peasant Woman

By Culture24 Reporter | 23 December 2013

The Cultural Gift Scheme has given the National Gallery an early Christmas present

An image of a painting of a woman in a green coat
Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Peasant Woman (Tête de Paysanne). Oil on canvas (probably late 1884 – early 1885). Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government and allocated to The National Gallery, 2013© Private Collection. Photo: National Gallery, London
Curators at the National Gallery say a newly-acquired Vincent van Gogh peasant painting is a Christmas gift to the gallery, adding a unique perspective to its sextet of existing works by the artist.

Head of a Peasant Woman, painted in 1884 or 1885, will give visitors a glimpse of the respect with which the artist, who was heavily influenced by his years in the Dutch village of Nuenen, where his father was a minister, painted peasants.

Of the seven Van Gogh works held by the gallery, the canvas is unique in being from the Netherlands and a figure painting - the others are all still lifes or landscapes.

Dr Nicholas Penny, the Director of the gallery, said the painting showed Van Gogh's "extraordinary sympathy" for "the common people".

"They were never in his mind common at all," he observed.

"Before this acquisition, the National Gallery gave the public no idea of Van Gogh’s early work."

One of around 40 portraits of peasants from the village, the painting is thought to have been privately bought shortly after Van Gogh's death in 1890, evidencing further the human appeal of these sitters.

Alan Davey, of the Arts Council, praised the philanthropic Cultural Gifts Scheme, a donation initiative launched earlier this year. The painting is its second acquisition following the British Library's purchase of lyrics by John Lennon earlier this year.

"The impact of this scheme can only grow as more people step forward to donate works for the nation to own and cherish," he predicted, calling the painting "stunning".

Fresh scientific discoveries surrounding two versions of Van Gogh's Sunflowers, from the resident collection and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, are expected to provide a treat for fans of the artist in an accompanying display at the start of 2014.

  • Head of a Peasant Woman is on display in Room 45 of the National Gallery.
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