Van Gogh, Renouard, and the Weavers' Crisis in Lyons
Sometime during the winter of 1885, just about the time he began work on his monumental Potato Eaters, Vincent van Gogh wrote from Nuenen to his brother Theo: "You would greatly oblige me by trying to get for me: Illustration No. 2174, 24 October 1884. . . . There is a drawing by Paul Renouard in it, a strike of weavers at Lyon. . . ." Van Gogh goes on to discuss other drawings by Renouard, and concludes: " . . . I think the drawing of the weavers the most beautiful of all; there is so much life and depth in it that I think this drawing might hold its own beside Millet, Daumier, Lepage."1 The drawing in question must have meant a great deal to van Gogh, for he mentions it again in a letter to his brother a little later in the year: "I am sorry you did not send L'Illustration, for I have followed Renouard's work pretty regularly, and for many years I have saved up what he did for L'Illustration. And this is one of the most splendid which I think would delight you too."2 Still later, van Gogh's tone of urgency deepens, as does the specificity of his description of the work in question: "Many thanks for the Illustrations you sent, I am much obliged to you. I think all the various drawings by Renouard beautiful and I did not know one of them.
"However--this is not to give you extra trouble, but because I wrote things about it which perhaps cannot quite be applied to other drawings of his--the composition to which I referred is not among them. Perhaps that number of Illustration is sold out. The breadth of the figure in it was