The Hague, July 1882 Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
pencil, brown ink, watercolour, chalk, on paper,
38 cm x 55.8 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (purchased with support from the BankGiro Loterij, the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, the Rembrandt Association and her Prints and Drawings Fund, the Mondriaan Fund and the VSB Foundation)
Vincent van Gogh came across this spot during one of his long walks in the area around his house in The Hague. He wanted to use the dead pollard willow beneath a threatening sky to create a sombre landscape with a railway signalman who, according to the artist, is thinking: ‘how gloomy it is today’.
Pollard Willow is a detailed watercolour. On the horizon, Van Gogh carefully drew the railway depot at Rijnspoor station in pen and ink. The lampposts, the locomotive, from which smoke rises, and the small figure of the signalman with his flag are all rendered with great precision. He then completed the scene using watercolours. The path running alongside the willow is black with coal dust.
Van Gogh produced his first large, fully-fledged watercolours in The Hague and this was the one with which he was most satisfied. He wrote to Theo: ‘I’ve attacked that old giant of a pollard willow, and I believe it has turned out the best of the watercolours.’