The Drinkers

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Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853–1890

The Drinkers, 1890

Oil on canvas
23 3/8 x 28 7/8 in. (59.4 x 73.4 cm)
Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1953.178

Faille, de la

During his time in the Asylum of Saint-Paul in Saint-Rémy, a small town near Arles, Vincent van Gogh made a number of copies of the work of artists he admired, which freed him from having to produce original compositions and allowed him to concentrate instead on interpretation. For this image, Van Gogh copied a wood engraving from Honoré Daumier’s Drinkers, a parody on the four ages of man. The exaggerated figure types capture Daumier’s characteristic humor and convey his sad message about the horrors of alcoholism. The greenish palette may well be an allusion to the notorious alcoholic drink absinthe.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Salon des Indépendents, "Exposition Retrospective de l’Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh," 24 March–30 April 1905, no. 1

Vienna Secession, "Internationale Kunstschau," May–October, 1909, no. 10

Berlin, Paul Cassirer, "Zehnter Ausstellung. Vincent van Gogh," May–June, 1914, no. 113.

Vienna Secession, "Die führenden Meister der franzöisischen Kunst im neunzehnten Jahrhundert," 1925, no. 89.

Chicago, Arts Club, "Exhibition of the Joseph Winterbotham Collection," December 9–31, 1936, no. 44.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy and Auvers," November 25, 1986–March 22, 1987, no. 47.

Leningrad (St. Petersburg), State Hermitage Museum, and Moscow, State Pushkin Museum, "From Delacroix to Matisse: Great French Paintings from the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 20th Century from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago," February–August 1988, no. 44.

Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, Van Gogh in Budapest, 1 December 2006—20 March 2007, no. 69 (ill.).

Rome, Complesso Monumentale dell Vittoriano, Vincent Van Gogh: Timeless Country – Modern City, 8 October 2010 – 6 February 2011, cat. 86, as The Drinkers or The Four Ages of Man, p.27, 190, 267.

Publication History

Julius Meier-Graefe, Vincent van Gogh (Munich 1912), pp. 56, 57 (ill.).

Julius Meier-Graefe, Vincent van Gogh, John Holyroyd Reece, trans. (London, Liverpool, and Boston, 1922), pp. 70–71, pl. 82.

Gustave Coquiot, Vincent van Gogh (Paris, 1923), p. 319.

Julius Meier-Graefe, Entwicklungsgeschichte der modernen Kunst (Munich, 1927), p. 605, Pl. 518, (ill.). Originally published Stuttgart, 1904.

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh to His Brother, 1872–1886 (London, Boston, and New York, 1927), vol. 2, p. 83, no. 265.

Vincent van Gogh, Further Letters of Vincent van Gogh to His Brother, 1886–1889 (London, Boston, and New York, 1929), vol. 2, p. 430, no. 623, p. 437, no. 626.

W. George, Van Gogh: 24 phototypies, Les Albums d’Art Druet 3 (Paris, 1927), pl. 1.

Wilhelm Uhde, Vincent van Gogh (Vienna, 1936), pp. 16–17, pl. 80.

Jacob Baart de la Faille, L’Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh: catalogue raisonné (Paris, 1928), vol. 1, p. 187, no. 667; vol. 2, pl. 188.

W. Scherjon and W. J. de Gruyter, Vincent van Gogh’s Great Period (Amsterdam, 1937), p. 291, no. 97.

"Accessions of American and Canadian Museums, April–June 1953," Art Quarterly 16 (1953) p. 348, ill. p. 356, no. 2.

"Recent Purchases and Gifts," Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly 47 (1953) no. 4, p. 73, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), pp. 199-200, ill. p. 330.

Paolo Lecaldano, L’opera pittorica completa di Van Gogh e i suoi nessi grafici, vol. 2 (Milan, 1977), no. 761.

John Rewald, Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin, 3rd rev. ed. (New York, 1978), p. 327 (ill.).

Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches (New York, 1980), pp. 433–34.

B. Naeling, "Vincent van Gogh," PAN. Unsere herrliche Welt no. 9 (September 1984), pp. 4–23.

Susan A. Stein, ed., Van Gogh: A Retrospective (New York, 1986), pp. 318, 327 (ill.).

Walter Feilchenfeldt, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cassirer, Berlin, Cahier Vincent 2 (Zwolle, Netherlands, 1988), pp. 111, 147, 150, F 667

Bruce Laughton, The Drawings of Daumier and Millet (New Haven and London, 1991), pp. 202–03 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 20, no. 2 (1994), pp. 126–27 (ill.).

Naomi Margolis Maurer, The Pursuit of Spiritual Wisdom: The Thought and Art of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin (London, 1998), p. 99, fig. 176.

Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, Van Gogh: in Provence and Auvers (New York, 1999), p. 215 (ill.).

Belinda Thomson, Van Gogh (Chicago, 2001), pp. 77, 84, pl. 14.

Cornelia Homburg, “Imaging City and Country,” Vincent van Gogh: Timeless Country – Modern City. Exh. cat. (Skira Editore S.p.A. 2012), p. 27, p.190, p. 201, p. 267, p. 273, cat. 86, cat. 96.

Ownership History

Jack Aghion, Paris (died before 1914), by 1905 [lent by him to Paris 1905]. Carl Reininghaus, Vienna (died 1932), by 1909 to at least 1925 [lent by him to Vienna 1909, Berlin 1914, and Vienna 1925]. Probably Galerie Thannhauser, Munich and Berlin [according to annotated working list prepared for the Arts Club exhibition, Chicago 1936; copy in curatorial file]; probably sold by Galerie Thannhauser to Joseph Winterbotham, Jr. (died 1954), Burlington, Vt., by 1933 [purchase from Thannhauser is implied by context on working list cited above]; Joseph Winterbotham, Jr. (died 1954), Burlington, Vt., by 1933 to 1953 [Winterbotham placed the painting on deposit with Durand-Ruel Gallery, New York, on 13 November 1933, instructing that it be shipped to Chicago for temporary loan to the Art Institute, according to records of Durand-Ruel and Art Institute shipping receipt; the frame was sent separately from Burlington, Vt.]; given by Joseph Winterbotham to the Art Institute, 1953.