The Sower and Setting Sun

Topics: Vincent van Gogh, Color, Color wheel Pages: 2 (932 words) Published: April 19, 2014
In the second half of June, Van Gogh decided to put his skills to the test. Not only did he work on size 30 canvases, but he set out to prove himself in the genre he considered superior to all others and produce a figure piece of his own invention. The outcome of his first, rather tentative attempt was 'The Sower', now in Otterlo, which he painted around 17 June. 'The Sower' and, later, 'The Night Café' were among the few 'attempts at composite paintings' he ever made, as he wrote subsequently. He wrote a great deal about this first attempt to enliven a landscape by using a human figure as the focal point of the composition. He described it in no less than four letters and sent hastily-executed sketches of it to his friends John Russell and Emile Bernard. He later made two drawings after the completed painting for Bernard and Theo. Inspired by Jean-François Millet's 'Sower' from 1850 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts), Van Gogh had tried several times to produce a serious painting on the same theme as the French master's chef d'oeuvre. His first attempts, undertaken in the Netherlands, were unsuccessful. However, encouraged by his increasing technical competence, he tackled the theme again in Arles. He apparently did not yet possess sufficient confidence to attempt the work without preparing himself first, as the canvas in Otterlo is a study - though an extremely promising one.'The sketch [ ... ] keeps tormenting me', he wrote to Theo, 'and I wonder whether I shouldn't tackle it seriously and make a terrific painting of it. My God! how I should like to do that' The Otterlo canvas was his first step towards this goal. He envisaged the ultimate masterpiece as speaking 'a symbolic language through colour alone', and in this sense it was to be a truly modern piece. 'Could the sower be painted in colour, contrasting yellow and violet together, for example', he asked Theo rhetorically,'yes or no? Yes - of course. Well do it then! Yes - that's what pére Martin said, too:...
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