Vincent makes the choice in Nuenen to use the daily, hard life of peasants and weavers as a starting point for his painting.
His stay in Nuenen is one of the most important and productive periods of his life. From December 1883 to November 1885 he produced a quarter of his total oeuvre.
As many as 24 buildings and landscapes recall his stay in Nuenen; 14 of them were painted or drawn by him. Some landscapes in the immediate vicinity still exude the atmosphere of his time.
During Vincent's time in Nuenen, the De Groot family lived in a farmhouse next to windmill De Roosdonck. He can be found with them a lot, painting and drawing them. These are studies to arrive at his first great masterpiece: The Potato Eaters. The painting shows the De Groot family around a steaming dish of potatoes, and cups of coffee. After all the preliminary studies, he paints this extensive group portrait in his studio at Schafrath's in April and May 1885.
With a large piece of several figures, Van Gogh hopes to prove himself to the outside world. For months he practices painting portraits, hands, the interior. Even clock and cutlery: dozens of studies precede The Potato Eaters. Satisfied with the result himself, Vincent considers The Potato Eaters his first full-fledged work, but his brother Theo and artist friend Anthon van Rappard are highly critical of the work.
The cottage where the de Groot family lived is still there. It stands near mill De Roosdonck. You'll pass here if you use the booklet Op Pad met Vincent, or if you walk the Nuenen edition of the Van Gogh National Park walk.Nuenen hiking trail Van Gogh National Park
"In reality ,every day in the gloomy huts I see effects against the light or at night in the twilight, which are so curious that so far my work seems to me too light for the effects in question .letter 506, Vincent Van Gogh to Theo van Gogh