The blind weavers
Pencil and charcoal, heightened with white chalk on laid paper, 1891
Signed and dated A. v. Rappard ‘91
54.3 x 81 cm
Private collection, Germany
Jaap W. Brouwer, Jan Laurens Siesling & Jaques Vis, Companion and correspondent of Vincent van Gogh: his life & all his works, Maarssen, 1974, pp. 16-108 (see similar works p. 108, no. 184-185)
Around his thirties Anthon van Rappard created a large series of concise sketches and drawings of blind workers. He would use these sketches to compose larger paintings. These works are characterised by effects of backlight and the special positioning of the figures, what give powerful sheets.
Still a young man, Van Rappard had entered the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam in 1876. By 1879 he left the academy to go on a study journey through Belgium, after which he continued to Paris and became a pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme during six months. These academic years were characterised by the precise exercise of drawing after the live model, a practice he would hold on to. More importantly, his contact with Theo and Vincent van Gogh turned out important for his career. This close friendship then greatly affected the artistic concepts of both and they strongly influenced each other. Both artists took the examples of wood engravings illustrated in French and English magazines, due to its use of types: characters whose pose or attribute revealed the essence of their situation or social position. In remaining letters from Vincent to Anthon, the former regularly suggested not to focus on the technique but rather on the theme and expression of the subjects, for those gave the work its true value.
Van Rappard went back to Brussels on several occasions to study more after the live model and became a member of the artist society L’Essor in 1882. In the fall of that same year he visited the institute for the blind in Utrecht for the first time. Subjects like these were in fashion, as many artists were drawing in factories, orphanages and hospitals. Yet Van Rappard was also personally attracted due to his sincere sympathy for them. In May 1888 he returned to the institute to make a new series, and in 1890-91 he went to the Préviniaire cotton-dying plant in Haarlem. His fascination resulted in precise studies of the shape and structure of these workers. A gripping portrait or group composition, such as the current sheet, demonstrates Van Rappard’s technical abilities to describe his sitter(s). The concentration on the essence of the subject and the dark colour scheme in his sketches and paintings amount to a sober and honest tribute of the working class.
Similar to the current sheet exist two versions of the four blind weavers: one executed in pastel and at the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam, and another executed in pencil and at the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
 Jaap W. Brouwer, Jan Laurens Siesling & Jaques Vis, 1974, p. 16.
 Brieven aan Anthon G.A. Ridder van Rappard, 1881-1885, no. 413 and R51a.
 His submissions of sketches of ordinary people to these exhibitions, marked his place in the new Realist generation in Brussels.