In his ten short years as an artist, Vincent van Gogh did more than just paintings and sketches. He was a great enthusiast of British engravers whose work he viewed in and collected from many of the popular magazines of the day. In 1882 he began to experiment with lithography. He created a series of ten graphic works: nine lithographs and one etching. Though he was successful with these works he did not regularly work with these methods.
Many of Van Gogh’s lithographs are also seen in other mediums. One of Van Gogh’s lithographs was originally a drawing, Sorrow, a nude study of Sien Hoornik, a pregnant prostitute that Van Gogh took in and cared for. At Eternity’s Gate, one of Van Gogh’s first lithographs depicts an old man in a chair by a fire his head resting in his hands, eight years after the lithograph Van Gogh re-created this likeness in oil and titled it Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity). His large and bold peasant painting of The Potato Eaters was intended for the marketplace. Van Gogh made a lithograph of the piece in order for it to reach a broader audience and in an attempt to earn some money.
In a letter to his brother Theo from 1882: “As to the lithography, I hope to get a proof tomorrow of a little old man. I hope it will turn out well. I made it with a kind of chalk especially patterned for this process, but I am afraid that after all the common lithographic crayon will prove to be the best, and that I shall be sorry I did not use it”.
Van Gogh’s only etching, L'Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur Gache,depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, a doctor and friend of Van Gogh’s who took care of him in the final weeks of his life. Dr. Gachet introduced Van Gogh to etching after he had experimented with lithography. It is believed that there were 33 impressions made with the etching, some created by Van Gogh and Gachet and others by master printer Eugene Delatre.
Here are a few examples of those lithographs: