Vincent van Gogh lived in The Hague (Netherlands) when he painted this Young girl in a wood. While living in The Hague, Vincent followed instruction with the painter Anton Mauve, who taught him about drawing and color theory. This helped Vincent to develop his gift for color and made his confidence grow. He wrote to his brother Theo, “I know for sure that I have an instinct for color.”
Mauve introduced van Gogh to several artists whose style of painting in the outdoors was related to the work of Millet.
During this period Vincent worked hard at perfecting his figure painting. He wrote to his brother, “Theo, I am decidedly not a landscape painter; when I make landscapes, there will always be something of the figure in them“.
Vincent couldn’t afford to hire models and instead he used people he observed in his daily live. In July 1882 he visited the exhibition of French art from Mesdag’s collection where he saw paintings by Dupré, Corot, Daubigny, Diaz, Breton, Jacque and Rousseau. These works reaffirmed the direction he was pursuing in his own art.
The painting of A Girl in a Wood was painted towards the end of August. Vincent was very enthusiastic about it, so he wrote to Theo: “This week I have painted some rather large studies in the wood, which I tried to carry out more thoroughly and vigorously than the first ones“.
Some researchers say that it is possible that the girl in the painting might be Maria, the six year old daughter of Sien Hoornik, the woman with whom Van Gogh had become romanticly involved.
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands