The Tragedy Behind Van Gogh’s Critically-Panned “The Potato Eaters”

Vincent van Gogh’s "The Potato Eaters" is considered his first true masterpiece, but it was heavily criticized and disliked by his peers when it was completed in 1885. Using oil on canvas, van Gogh painted five people gathered around a table, eating potatoes and drinking coffee. He wanted to show peasants as they really were and deliberately chose coarse and ugly models, thinking they would be natural and unspoiled in his finished work. However, his friend van Rappard displayed critical disdain for the painting’s technical execution, and others also negatively responded to it. Despite van Gogh’s attempts to explain his artwork, no one understood it. The criticism of "The Potato Eaters" haunted van Gogh even after he moved to France, and it ultimately contributed to his mental health struggles and early death. However, the painting is now considered priceless and hangs in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.