The Potato Eaters was a work that was thought about and planned carefully by Van Gogh. He made numerous studies and gave the painting much thought. The artist was pleased with the result of the painting as he mentions it in several letters to his brother Theo and others.
Quoted in a letter to Theo, Vincent says of the painting "Although I'll have painted the actual painting in a relatively short time, and largely from memory, it's taken a whole winter of painting studies of heads and hands. And as for the few days in which I've painted it now.. it's consequently been a formidable fight, but one for which I have great enthusiasm. Although at times I feared that it wouldnt come off."
And also "You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor and.. that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours.. civilized people. So I certainly don't want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why."