‘What I think of my own work’, Vincent van Gogh wrote to his sister Willemien in October 1887, ‘is that the painting of farmers eating potatoes, which I made in Nuenen, is the best thing I made after all.’ A strange judgment, because actually that painting was – The potato eaters – the biggest failure of Vincent’s early career. Two years earlier, he had big plans for that painting ‘of the farmers eating potatoes’. But in fact nothing came of it.

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