64 days in heaven and hell (146) Day 58, December 19 Van Gogh only wrote 3 times to his brother in December and doesn’t mention a few works that are supposed to have been made during that month. This is one of them. Perhaps this placid man popped in to sit for his portrait precisely on this seemingly calm day.
But let’s not be deceived by appearances. Van Gogh’s body was weakened, his mind restless. A possible defect in his personality that his parents already surmised years ago, didn’t need much anymore to break out.
Vincent Van Gogh, Le fumeur (The Smoker), December 1888. Oil on canvas, 62 x 47 cm. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (F 534, JH 1651)