Skip to main content Skip to site map (in footer)

Head of a Peasant Woman - early Van Gogh painting donated to the National Gallery under the Cultural Gifts Scheme

  • Date: 20 December 2013
  • Area: National
Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Peasant Woman (Tête de Paysanne), probably late 1884 - early 1885. Oil on canvas. 40.3 x 30.5cm

Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Peasant Woman (Tête de Paysanne), probably late 1884 - early 1885. Oil on canvas. 40.3 x 30.5cm. Credit: The National Gallery

An early Vincent Van Gogh painting, Head of a Peasant Woman, has been donated to the National Gallery under the Cultural Gifts Scheme introduced by the UK Government earlier this year.

Head of a Peasant Woman is the first early work by the artist to enter the National Gallery collection. It is also the only one painted in his native Holland and, most importantly, the first figure painting – the six other Van Gogh works in the collection (four owned by the Gallery and two long terms loans) are landscapes and still lifes.  

The painting is one of Van Gogh’s series of around 40 portraits of the peasants of Neunen. He painted them in late 1884 / early 1885 when he had settled in the village, which is in North Brabant in the Netherlands, where his father was a minister. This portrait was amongst the very few works acquired early on from the Van Gogh family, probably soon after the artist’s death - indicating that its appeal was quickly recognised.

National Gallery Director, Dr Nicholas Penny, said:
‘Before this acquisition, the National Gallery gave the public no idea of Van Gogh’s early work and had no painting which showed his extraordinary sympathy for the common people – who were never in his mind common at all.’

Alan Davey, Arts Council England Chief Executive, said:
‘The Cultural Gifts Scheme, launched earlier this year, is going from strength to strength. That John Lennon’s lyrics, donated in April to the British Library, have now been added to by the second gift of this stunning Van Gogh painting to be housed in another national institution, the National Gallery, is a testament to its success so far. The impact of this scheme can only grow as more people step forward to donate works for the nation to own and cherish.’

The painting joins the National Gallery’s collection at an opportune moment, as two versions of Van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers are being reunited in London for the first time in 65 years in 2014. From 25 January – 27 April, the paintings from the National Gallery, London and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, can be seen in a free display at the Trafalgar Square gallery. Van Gogh’s Head of a Peasant Woman can be seen now in Room 45 of the National Gallery.

Links and further information

Explore the National Gallery website

Find out more about the Cultural Gifts Scheme

Follow the Arts Council and the National Gallery on Twitter