In a letter dated 1 November 1880, Vincent wrote to his brother Theo that he had gone to visit the Dutch artist Anthon Gerhard Alexander van Rappard (1858–1892), who was studying at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. They met at nine in the morning at Rue Traversière 64. Van Rappard was extremely wealthy, and Vincent was unsure whether they would get on because of the financial gap between them. Yet by early 1881 they had struck up a genuine friendship. They shared ideas about art and a preference for simple subjects and methods of representation.
Vincent and Van Rappard stayed in touch until 1885, frequently corresponding about their work and their shared passion for collecting magazine illustrations. Though they no longer lived in the same town, they continued to see each other regularly. The friendship ultimately ended after Van Rappard criticised Vincent's lithograph The Potato Eaters, though neither had desired the breach.
Because Vincent’s room on Boulevard du Midi in Brussels was small and poorly lit, he worked in Van Rappard’s studio for a few months in the spring of 1881. The two men then left Brussels around the same time, Vincent at the end of April and Van Rappard in mid-May.