Head of a Peasant by Vincent Van Gogh, oil on canvas 1884, is a portrait painting study of an aging peasant in brown coat and dark hat against a dark background. Van Gogh lived and worked among the peasants of Nuenen in his native Holland in this period and painted many such portraits of poor workers, farmers, weavers and peasants in preparation for his first ambitious composition, The Potato Eaters. Working in a limited palette of somber earth tones of brown, umber and ochre pigments, Van Gogh captured the character, roughness and earthiness of his peasant subject while displaying great empathy for the human condition.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was a Dutch painter of the Post-Impressionist movement known for bold, expressive drawing, swirling brushstrokes and bold, heightened colors. In early adulthood Van Gogh worked as an art dealer, teacher and pastor before taking up the full time study of drawing and painting in his late twenties. Influenced by Rembrandt, the 19th century Realists and Barbizon school, Van Gogh's early paintings featured studies of workers and peasants in somber earth tones. Moving to France in 1886, Van Gogh met with the startling innovations of the Impressionist painters and began to apply their approach to color and subject matter, which continued into the mature style for which the artist is most renowned. Van Gogh produced many hundreds of drawings and paintings including portraits, landscapes, still life and flower paintings, and numerous self-portraits that became a dominating influence on the modern art of the 20th century and made him one of the most popular artists of all time.