The Zouave

Artist: Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)

Date: ca. June 20, 1888

Medium: Reed pen and brown ink, wax crayon and watercolor, over graphite; wove paper

Dimensions: 12 3/8 x 9 5/16 in. (31.5 x 23.6 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Gift of Emanie Philips, 1962

Accession Number: 62.151


During a spell of torrential rain that interrupted his harvest series (June 20–24), Van Gogh made his first real effort at portraiture in Arles. Two days into his campaign, he announced to Theo: "I have a model at last—a Zouave—a boy with a small face, a bull neck, and the eye of the tiger." The present work served as a color study for his bust-length portrait of the dashing young soldier. In the oil painting, Van Gogh heightened the "savage combination of incongruous tones," fleshed out the character's likeness, and placed him in a convincing setting. That July he sent the watercolor, with dedicatory inscription, to his "comrade Émile Bernard."