The original was created using oil on canvas.
The eldest son of a clergyman, Vincent Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Zundert, a village in the south of The Netherlands. Though early on he hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps, eventually his dream to be a preacher transformed into becoming an artist.
Essentially self-taught, Van Gogh began painting in earnest when he was 27-years old. Surprisingly, he had a very brief artistic career, lasting only 10 years. During that relatively brief time he created over 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches! Some of these sketches may be found in the copious letters he wrote to his brother, and biggest supporter, Theo. We know so much about Van Gogh’s life and art through these letters, and best of all they can all be explored online thanks to the incredible work of the Van Gogh Museum - https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/highlights.
Van Gogh’s art is categorized into three distinct stages described as his Dutch, Impressionistic and Arles periods. His Dutch period was characteristically stern and sober and includes dark, realistic work like his famous, Potato Eaters.
Although earthy tones and emphasis on drawing dominated his early works, color later occupied his thoughts and he began to contemplate color theory. His Impressionist stage began after he moved to Paris in 1886 and studied the art of fellow Impressionists and Divisionists. There he befriended artists Émile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat and Paul Signac. A voracious reader and keen observer and listener, Van Gogh was able to absorb the ideas and artistic practices of the artists around him.
Van Gogh spent two years in Paris experimenting and growing as an artist, but he yearned for something more – the colors and light of the South of France. In a letter to his sister he wrote, “It’s my plan to go to the south for a while, as soon as I can, where’s there’s even more color and even more sun.” Van Gogh eventually settled in Arles with the hopes of creating an artist colony where other artists would join him.
Van Gogh’s style and draftsmanship reached its full maturity in Arles, and it was there that he developed his expressive, individual painting style characterized by bold colors and dynamic brushstrokes. At this point, his artistic style is considered Post-Impressionism. The Post-Impressionists looked for ways to express meaning beyond surface appearances, they sought to paint with emotions and intellect as well as the eye.
It was in Arles that Van Gogh suffered the first signs of illness, in seizures, delusions and psychotic breakdowns. He spent time in an asylum there but continued to paint canvas after canvas, including portraits of himself with his bandaged ear and his series of Sunflower paintings. Later, in 1889 Theo convinced his brother to check into Saint Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was here that Van Gogh painted, Laboureur dans un champ.
Having recently suffered a relapse and unable to paint for six weeks, Laboureur dans un champ was likely the first work Van Gogh completed once he healed. As he went back to work, he wrote to his brother Theo,
"Yesterday I started working again a little — a thing I see from my window. Work distracts me infinitely better than anything else, and if I could once again really throw myself into it with all my energy that might possibly be the best remedy."
One could say that Laboureur dans un champ is an insight into Van Gogh’s own psyche. His energetic brushstroke vividly captures the turbulence of the tilled earth, its dramatic movement mimicking a raging sea. Likewise, his application of thick impasto paint creates a sense of three-dimensionality and increased expression. In another letter to his brother the artist writes, “What a beautiful land and what beautiful blue and what a sun! And yet I’ve only seen the garden and what I can make out through the window.” Van Gogh expressively portrays these stunning, rich blues leaving one to wonder if there is some symbolism attached or if it was simply a color choice.
The act of painting was certainly cathartic to Van Gogh, and to this day the asylum offers art therapy to its patients. Sold for $81,312,500 in 2017, Laboureur dans un champ reflects an artist determined to heal himself through his art.
How has sheltering in place affected your mood? Gather some paper and felt pens, crayons or paint and create an artwork that visually expresses how you are feeling, your emotions. Think about how colors reflect your mood. How will your process depict your mood? Will you use jagged lines? Squiggly lines? Quick dots? Will you press down hard with your crayon or make swift brushstrokes with a paintbrush? All of these things will contribute to the overall effect of your masterpiece.
Here is a list of colors commonly used to identify several emotions:
· Red: Anger, embarrassment, passion.
· Blue: Shyness, sadness, or calmness.
· Yellow: Cowardice, happiness, or caution.
· Green: Disgust, envy, friendliness, or greed.
· Purple: Pride, fear, or courageousness
· Grey: Depression, regular sadness, or meaninglessness.
· Black: Coldness or mournfulness.
· Pink: Cheeriness, embarrassment, or love.
· White: Shock, fear, coldness, or mournfulness.
*impressionism – Beginning in 1872 with Monet’s painting Impression: Sunrise, and through to around 1900, the Impressionists created works that aimed to capture the visual impression made by a scene. The Impressionist artists pursued their own personal directions in theme, technique, and style, but shared the impressionist palette, came under the influence of Japanese prints, and were effected by the camera and photography. The use of bright, fragmented, pure color and a preoccupation with the effects of light were among the hallmarks of Impressionism.
*divisionism – (also called pointillism) In painting, a systematic use of optical mixtures. Instead of mixing pigments on the palette, the artist applied pure colors, in small dots or dashes; seen at the right distance, the fragmented areas of vivid color dots produced the effect of color areas more subtle and rich than could be achieved by conventional techniques.
*post-impressionism – General term for the work of the major artists of Western Europe, not closely linked stylistically, who developed away from Impressionism between the years 1880 and 1914. Like many artists in the 1880s, the Post-Impressionists looked for ways to express meaning beyond surface appearances, to paint with the emotions and the intellect as well as the eye. They were interested in the workings of colors and the process of seeing it. Chief among them were Cézanne, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh.
*impasto – The texture produced by the thickness of pigment (paint) in a painting.
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*The Emergency Art Museum claims no ownership, or copyright to any materials found here, or on-site. The Emergency Art Museum functions solely as a non-commercial, non-profit, educational resource for the community. All artwork represented or reproduced, has been done so for educational purposes only under the fair use act.
-Johnny DePalma, Owner / Curator
-Janelle Graves, Art Historian / Museum Educator