The Discus Thrower - by Vincent van Gogh

This drawing was created in Feburary 1886. In the first half of January 1886 Van Gogh enrolled at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten (The Royal Academy of Fine Arts). Here he embarked upon drawing from plaster casts with some enthusiasm, even though he did not agree with the theoretical approach of his teachers. They emphasized the importance of contours in life drawing, whereas Van Gogh had trained himself very successfully during his time in Nuenen to construct a figure by concentrating on its volumes. These divergent artistic principles were wholly incompatible, and his study at the academy was doomed to failure from the very start.

Since students spent an average of three to four days making a drawing from a plaster cast, and Van Gogh stayed for about six weeks, he must have produced about a dozen of these drawings while he was there. However, only one drawing has been preserved, The Discus Thrower, and it is no accident that this study is rather unpolished, bearing a strong resemblance to Van Gogh's studies of Nuenen peasants from the summer of 1885.