Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 18531890)
Watercolor, reed pen and ink, wax crayon; 12 3/8 x 9 5/16 in. (31.5 x 23.6 cm)
Gift of Emanie Philips, 1962 (62.151)
During a spell of torrential rain that interrupted his harvest series (June 2024), Van Gogh made his first real effort at portraiture in Arles. Two days into his campaign, he announced to Theo: "I have a model at lasta Zouavea boy with a small face, a bull neck, and the eye of the tiger." The present work served as a color study for his bust-length portrait of the dashing young soldier. In the oil painting, Van Gogh heightened the "savage combination of incongruous tones," fleshed out the character's likeness, and placed him in a convincing setting. That July he sent the watercolor, with dedicatory inscription, to his "comrade Émile Bernard."