Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh seems to have been inspired to make this melancholy drawing after reading “Tristement” (Sadly) by the French writer François Coppée, known as “the Poet of the Humble.” The poem describes a mourning widow proceeding along “a very long lane of giant, half- denuded plane trees.” Time has enhanced the drawing’s autumnal mood. The irongall ink that Van Gogh used, once black, has faded to a dark brown and imparted a golden tone to the paper, and the hatched pen lines have bled and merged. The effect overall is a more muted contrast between light and dark.

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853–1890
Avenue of Pollard Birches and Poplars, 1884
Reed pen and iron-gall ink
Richard and Mary L. Gray, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Jamie Stukenberg, Professional Graphics Inc.