Vincent arrived in Hoogeveen on 11 September 1883 and found a room near the railway station that cost one guilder a day. He lived with the innkeeper Albertus Hartsuiker (1827–1902), his wife, Catharina Beukema (1835–1908), and their three children. The guest house contained a large room where the lodgers could sit, a stable, an attic and a garden. Vincent was allowed to use the attic as a studio and keep his supplies there.
From Hoogeveen, Vincent tirelessly explored the surrounding area – the villages of Stuifzand, Zwartschaap, Pesse, and later Tiendeveen, Nieuweroord and Nieuwelande. The bog and heath landscape, the shabby old houses and turf huts, and the poor local residents and their harsh living conditions attracted his attention and provided subject matter for his art. His enthusiasm came through in his letters:
“I saw superb figures out in the country — striking in their expression of soberness.” Read the complete letter
The barges laden with peat and the people who worked on the land also made a strong impression on Vincent. No known painted figure studies and few figural drawings exist from his time in Hoogeveen, however. Since the local people disliked posing with onlookers around, a proper studio was desirable. Unfortunately, the Hartsuikers’ attic lacked sufficient light or space. Vincent realised he needed a better place to work, and he succeeded in finding one.
Vincent had brought various painting supplies from The Hague but soon used them up. Unable to obtain new materials in Hoogeveen, he had them delivered by Furnée, his paint supplier in The Hague. But once these too ran out, his mood changed:
“And if I look at my things, they’re too poor, too inadequate, too much exhausted. We’re having gloomy, rainy days here, and when I come into the corner of the attic where I’ve installed myself it’s all remarkably melancholy there — with the light from one single glass roof tile that falls on an empty painting box, on a bundle of brushes with few decent bristles remaining, well it’s so curiously melancholy that luckily it also has a funny enough side not to weep over it but to regard it more cheerfully.” Read the complete letter
Vincent had become curious about the peat pits and heathland as soon as he arrived in Drenthe, and he wished to explore more of the area. Thanks to money sent by Theo and his father, he was able to buy new art supplies and travel further east into the province. After two weeks in Hoogeveen, he left for the village of Nieuw-Amsterdam.