Vincent van Gogh was moved by the plight of labourers who spent their lives performing arduous and soul-destroying work. In 1884, soon after moving to the village of Nuenen in Brabant, he began to depict some of the weavers who found employment in the local industry. The man in The Weaver seems almost like an adjunct to his loom. His hands move automatically as he stares vacantly before him. Van Gogh spent day after day with these people. He wanted to bring them to the attention of city-dwellers, who were oblivious to their very existence.
Van Gogh was also fascinated by the peasants who worked the land. He sketched them digging, weeding, making hay, and harvesting potatoes. The museum has a drawing of a peasant woman bending over to plant beets. The figure is set out in firm, black chalk lines. The focus is mainly on the hands performing the laborious task. The sheet dates from 1885, the year in which Van Gogh painted his famous Potato Eaters.