Harvest at La Crau with Montmajour in the Background

Harvest at La Crau with Montmajour in the Background

"Now, the harvest is a bit more serious. And that’s the subject I’ve been working on this week, on a no. 30 canvas — it’s hardly done at all — but it kills the rest of what I have, apart from a still life, worked on with patience" Vincent To Theo. Arles, on or about Friday, 15 and Saturday, 16 June 1888
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Painting Date
10th of June 1888
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Vincent loved the view across the valley of the Crau with the ruins of the old abbey at Montmajour sitting behind row upon row of fields under the harvest.  He began drawing what he saw in late May of 1888 and completed one of his favorite paintings in mid June after trying a couple of perspectives in pen, watercolor and ink.  It reminded him of a couple of canvases in Paris in 1887 he painted of vegetable gardens in Montmartre in composition.   A year later, in June of 1890, he paints a similar landscape but with a carriage instead of a cart and a train in the distance, in Auvers Sur Oise just a month before his death.

He paints this perspective of the harvest in brilliant yellows and greens with a great blue cart at center front and another being driven just beyond it in the distance, also a deep blue against yellow.  The turquoise blue sky with dashes of grey white is done is wispy diagonal strokes on a light background imparting a feel of wind in the air somehow.  The distant abbey on the mountaintop is preceded by furrowed fields of lavender and deep blue as are the mountaintops in the distance.  The energy of the long awaited harvest, of reaping what has been sown has been captured by Vincent and his love for the working man of the soil perhaps honored most in his heart to date when he creates this large horizontal (73.4 cm x 91.8 cm) oil on canvas and looks to create a pendant of haystacks to hang beside it.

 

Courtesy of The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation):


In the spring of 1888, Van Gogh worked daily in the hot sun in the wheatfields around Arles. He was immensely productive, completing ten paintings and five drawings in just over a week, until a heavy storm brought the harvest season to an end.

The Harvest is structured in layers, with mown wheat in the foreground and mauve-blue mountains, the Alpilles, in the background against a turquoise sky. It was not the idyllic landscape that drew Van Gogh, however, but the lives of rural people and their work on the land – a recurring theme in his paintings. He depicted several stages of the harvest. Here we see a hayrick, ladders, several carts and on the right a man with a pitchfork.

Despite their small scale, the farmers and their labours are the essence of this painting, which is why Van Gogh titled it La moisson or ‘The Harvest’. He considered it one of his most successful paintings.

 

“Now, the harvest is a bit more serious. And that’s the subject I’ve been working on this week, on a no. 30 canvas — it’s hardly done at all — but it kills the rest of what I have, apart from a still life, worked on with patience”

Vincent To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Friday, 15 and Saturday, 16 June 1888

I’m working on a landscape with wheatfields which I believe is no worse than the white orchard, for example. It’s of the same kind as the two Butte Montmartre landscapes that were in the Independents (Montmartre: behind the Moulin de la Galette F316 and Vegetable gardens in Montmartre  F350), but I think it’s more substantial and that it has a little more style.

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 12 or Wednesday, 13 June 1888

 

73.4 cm x 91.8 cm

Painting, Oil on Canvas
Arles, France: June, 1888
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 412, JH: 1440

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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