Outskirts of Paris: Road with Peasant Shouldering a Spade

Outskirts of Paris: Road with Peasant Shouldering a Spade

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Painting Date
30th of June 1887
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In the early Paris summer of 1887, Vincent painted this scene, close to the banks of the Seine, in the environs of Asnieres.  During this late spring and summer, Vincent and Paul Signac would paint along the streets of Gennevilliers, Clichy and Saint-Ouen, and the Seine which ran along them all.  Vincent liked the fringes of the encroaching city where the farmers still reaped what they had sown and new roads with gaslights were being constructed.

Signac and Seurat’s influence are felt heavily in one of Vincent’s most pointillist works.  He applies dots of unmixed color over the entire surface of the painting in the hope of arriving at a new method of depicting the essence of a scene or object.  Much like they do with a television today, the human eye will “mix” the adjacent color dots and create a blend if the painting is examined from a prescribed distance.  While Vincent will pull back from this method almost as soon as Seurat leaves for the summer of 1887, he will forever be influenced by Signac’s dedication to applying color theory and the simultaneous contrast of opposing colors placed side by side on canvas.

Van Gogh also mimics some favorites of the young painter, namely, Signac’s familiar white dotted sky, with purple buttons of paint accompanying them, one of Signac’s favorite and oft used colors. Also influential was Vincent’s viewing of the Salon des Independentes in the autumn of 1886, he also got to view other pointillist paintings such as The House of the Deaf  Woman by his new friend Lucien Pissarro, son of Camille.

However, in his approach to the human figure, Van Gogh remains more linked to Realism than Millet perhaps according to the Musee D’ Orsay in Van Gogh a Paris, 1988. In depicting the peasant with the spade, Vincent is directly inspired by the engraving done by his hero of the “little people”, Millet.  “Leaving for work” was the title of the engraving but Vincent’s homage is lighter and not as full of desperation or exhaustion as the Millet piece.

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 48 x 73 cm
Paris: June – July , 1887
Private collection
Japan, Asia
F: 361, JH: 1260

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