This pen-and-ink drawing, The bearers of the burden, was painted in 1881, a few month after he moved to Brussels. During his stay in Brussels, Van Gogh tried to make drawings with more character and be a social-realist.
In this drawing the laboring figures with their sacks of pit coal are quite successfully executed, while the composition of the partly industrial landscape is excellent. A few women is going home carring a heavy sack of coal. This painting is proof of Van Gogh's accomplshment of higher techniques in painting and also a person who cares about people around him.
In one of his letters Van Gogh mentioned this drawing: "So I hope to meet you soon, which I look forward to with great eagerness, also because I sketched two drawings atRappard's, "The lamp-bearers" and "The bearers of the burden", the further execution of which I wanted to discuss with you. To finish them I must, one way or another, have the necessary models, and then I'm confident that something good will come of them, namely a couple of compositions that I can show to Smeeton Tilly or the people from LIllustration or suchlike."