Dr. Gachet (Man with a Pipe)
Genre: Etching and drypoint
- Bertman, Sandra
- Date of entry: Jul-27-2006
Dr. Gachet's head and upper body face the viewer and fill the picture. The background of an outdoor yard and fence, visible above and to the left of the doctor, is sketchily rendered so as not to interfere with the foreground image of Dr. Gachet. Van Gogh does not center Gachet but instead cuts him off on his left-hand side. This positioning contrasts with typical portraits of the era, where aristocrats are often centered and beautified, and in this way suggests the humility of Dr. Gachet.
Van Gogh does not depict his doctor as a force larger than life; to the contrary, the doctor is rendered as a line sketch and colorless. His hands are knobby and without definition, his body and appendages are squiggly lines that seem to blend into his clothing and pipe. His hair is receding and his brow is creased with lines of concern.
Van Gogh focuses on the doctor's humanity rather than on his medical skill. Gachet does not appear in medicinal environs or with any of the tools of his trade. Instead, Gachet clutches only a pipe and looks deeply towards the viewer with eyes of raw concern. The attention to detail given to the eyes suggests that Van Gogh views his doctor's humanism and empathy as his defining qualities; tellingly, Dr. Gachet has only his title to indicate his training.
Jan Hulsker. The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches (New York: H. N. Abrams) 1980