Enclosed Field with Plowman

Enclosed Field with Plowman

"Yesterday I started working again a little – a thing I see from my window – a field of yellow stubble which is being ploughed, the opposition of the purplish ploughed earth with the strips of yellow stubble, background of hills."
Currently Located:
Detailed Image Links

Vincent has just recovered from his most difficult attack to date when he paints the Enclosed Field with Plowman.  Confined to his room for over a month, his painting materials have finally been returned to him after being removed when his attendants found him drinking his turpentine and eating his colors directly from their lead tubes.

He paints the scene outside his hospital room window of a field being readied for next year’s crop and a plowman with his horse turning the soil.  The annual cycle of the wheat harvest and reaping and sowing have always been important to Vincent.  One of his painting heroes, Millet, captured farm peasants and tillers of the soil in a way Vincent very much admired.

A setting yellow sun radiates in a teal and aqua sky and reflects off of the tilled soil and the horse’s collar under Vincent’s thick application of colors.  Diagonal strokes in shades of blue slash from bottom left to upper right with the cobalt Alpille Hills nearly eclipsing the sky.  Vincent frames his sun with wiggly vertically stroked poplars in autumn yellows at close left and by a white cottage with green roof at upper right.  Vincent will paint and draw this scene and the changing states of its field of wheat many times during his stay in hospital at Saint Remy.

Related items include a canvas of similar composition completed in the weeks just after the Enclosed Field with Plowman work.  Also included is a photograph of the view from the window of Vincent’s room in the Saint Paul de Mausole asylum in Saint Remy de Provence.

This painting was recently sold at auction – scroll to the bottom for more information on the sale.



“My dear Theo,

Since I wrote to you I’m feeling better, and whilst I don’t know if it’ll last I don’t want to wait any longer to write to you again.  Thanks once again for that beautiful etching after Rembrandt. I’d very much like to get to know the painting and know in which period of his life he painted it.  All this goes with the Rotterdam portrait of Fabritius, the traveller in the La Caze gallery, into a special category in which the portrait of a human being is transformed into something luminous and consoling.
And how very different this is from Michelangelo or Giotto, although the latter however comes close to it, and Giotto thus forms a sort of possible hyphen between the school of Rembrandt and the Italians.

Yesterday I started working again a little – a thing I see from my window – a field of yellow stubble which is being ploughed, the opposition of the purplish ploughed earth with the strips of yellow stubble, background of hills.

Work distracts me infinitely better than anything else, and if I could once really throw myself into it with all my energy that might possibly be the best remedy.
The impossibility of having models, a heap of other things, prevent me from managing it however. Anyway, I really must try to take things a little passively and be patient.
I often think of our pals in Brittany, who are certainly doing better work than I am. If, with the experience I’m having at present, it was possible for me to begin again, I wouldn’t go and look around the south.
Were I independent and free, I would nevertheless have retained my enthusiasm, for there are some really beautiful things to do.
Such as the vineyards, the fields of olive trees. If I had confidence in the management here, nothing would be better and simpler than to put all my furniture here at the hospital and quietly continue. If I were to recover, or in the intervals, I could sooner or later come back to Paris or Brittany for a time. But first they’re very expensive here, and then I’m afraid of the other patients at the moment.  Anyway, a heap of reasons mean that I don’t think I’ve been lucky here either.
I’m perhaps exaggerating in the sadness I feel at being knocked down by illness again – but I feel a kind of fear. You’ll tell me what I tell myself too, that the fault must be inside me and not in the circumstances or other people. Anyway, it isn’t fun. 
Mr Peyron has been kind to me and he has long experience, I shan’t scorn what he says or considers good.  But will he have a firm opinion, has he written anything definite to you?? And possible?
You can see that I’m still in a very bad mood, it’s because things aren’t going well. Then I consider myself imbecilic to go and ask doctors for permission to make paintings. Besides, it’s to be hoped that if I recover sooner or later, up to a certain point it’ll be because I’ve cured myself by working, which fortifies the will and consequently allows these mental weaknesses less hold.
My dear brother, I wanted to write to you better than this, but things aren’t going very well. I have a great desire to go into the mountains to paint for whole days, I hope they’ll allow me to in the coming days.
You’ll soon see a canvas of a hut in the mountains which I did under the influence of that book by Rod.  It would be good for me to stay on a farm for a while, at least I might do some good work there.  I must write to Mother and to Wil in the next few days. Wil asked to be sent a painting, and I’d very much like to give one to Lies as well on the same occasion, who doesn’t have any yet as far as I know.
What do you say about Mother going to live in Leiden? I think she’s right in this sense, that I can understand that she’s pining for her grandchildren. And then there’ll be none of us left in Brabant.  Speaking of that – not very long ago in Arles I was reading a book, I can’t remember which one, by Henri Conscience. It’s excessively sentimental if you like, what with his peasants, but speaking of Impressionism do you know that it  1r:4contains descriptions of landscape with colour notes of accuracy, feeling and primitiveness of the first order. And it’s always like that. Ah my dear brother, those heaths in the Kempen were something though. But anyway, that won’t come back, and onward we go.
He – Conscience – described a brand-new little house with a bright red slate roof in the full sunshine, a garden with dock and onions, potatoes with dark foliage, a beech hedge, a vineyard, and further on the pine trees, the broom all yellow.  Don’t be afraid, it wasn’t like a Cazin, it was like a Claude Monet.
Then there’s originality even in the excess of sentimentality.  And as for me, who feels it and can’t damned well do anything, isn’t that sickening.
If you get opportunities for lithographs of DelacroixRousseauDiaz &c., ancient and modern artists, Galeries modernes &c., I can’t advise you too strongly to hold onto them, for you’ll see that they’ll become rare. Yet it was really the way to popularize beautiful things, those 1-franc sheets of those days, those etchings &c. back then. Very interesting the Rodin – Claude Monet brochure. How I’d have liked to see that. Pointless to say that nevertheless I don’t agree when he says that Meissonier is nothing and that T. Rousseau isn’t much.   Meissoniers and Rousseaus are something highly interesting for those who like them and try to discover what the artist was feeling. It isn’t possible for everyone to be of that opinion, because one has to have seen and looked at them, and you don’t find that on every corner. Now a Meissonier, if you look at it for a year there’s still enough in it to look at the next year, never fear. Not to mention that he’s a man who had his days of happiness, of perfect finds.
Certainly I know, DaumierMilletDelacroix have another way of drawing – but Meissonier’s execution, that something essentially French above all, although the old Dutchmen would find nothing to fault in it, and yet it’s something other than them and it’s modern; one has to be blind to believe that Meissonier isn’t an artist and – one of the first rank.  Have many things been done that give the note of the 19th century better than the portrait of Hetzel? When Besnard did those two very beautiful panels, primitive man and modern man, which we saw at Petit’s, in making the modern man a reader he had the same idea.
And I’ll always regret that in our times people believe in the incompatibility of the generation of, say, 48 and the present one. I myself believe that the two hold their own all the same, though I can’t prove it.  Let’s take good Bodmer for example. Was he not able to study nature as a hunter, a savage, did he not love it and know it with experience of an entire long manly life – and do you think that the first Parisian to come along who goes to the suburbs knows as much or more about it because he’ll do a landscape with harsher tones? Not that it’s bad to use pure and clashing tones, not that from the point of view of colourI’m always an admirer of Bodmer, but I admire and I like the man who knew all the forest of Fontainebleau, from the insect to the wild boar and from the stag to the lark. From the tall oak and the lump of rock to the fern and the blade of grass.
Now a thing like that, not anyone who wants to can feel it or find it.  And Brion – oh a maker of Alsatian genre paintings people will tell me. That’s fine, he has indeed done the Engagement meal, the Protestant wedding &c. which are indeed Alsatian. When no one is up to illustrating Les Misérables, he however does it in a manner unsurpassed up to now, and he isn’t mistaken in his types.  Is it a small thing to know people so well, the humanity of that period, so well that one scarcely makes a mistake in expression and type?
Ah – the rest of us would have to get old working hard, and that’s why we then get despondent when things don’t go right.  I think that if you see the Bruyas museum in Montpellier one day, I think that then nothing will move you more than Bruyas himself, when one realizes from his purchases what he sought to be for artists. It’s a little disheartening when one sees from certain portraits of him how heartbroken and obviously frustrated his face is.  If one doesn’t succeed in the south there still remains he who suffered all his life for that cause.
The only serene portraits are the Delacroixand the Ricard.  For example, by a great chance the one by Cabanel is accurate and most interesting as an observation, at least it gives an idea of the man.
I’m pleased that Jo’s mother has come to Paris. Next year it will perhaps be a little different and you’ll have a child, and that brings a fair few petty vexations of human life – but as certain great miseries of spleen etc. will disappear for ever, that’s certainly how it should go. I’ll write to you again soon, I’m not writing to you as I would have wished, I hope that all is well at your place and will continue to go well. Am very, very pleased that Rivet has rid you of the cough, which really worried me a bit too.
What I had in my throat is starting to disappear, I’m still eating with some difficulty, but anyway it has got better.
Good handshake to you and to Jo.


Ever yours,

To Theo. Saint-Rémy, on or about Monday, 2 September 1889




Recently sold at auction:

Artnet article

by Eileen Kinsella

In what is perhaps a reflection of the number of newly wealthy buyers popping up in Asia, Christie’s specialists for the region were particularly active throughout the sale, and were frequently successful in winning pricey lots for their respective clients. This included the star painting of the night, Vincent van Gogh‘s Laboureur dans un champ, St Remy (1889), which carried an unpublished estimate of $45–65 million.

Auctioneer Adrian Meyer, head of private sales for Impressionist and Modern art, took the podium for the first time at a New York Impressionist evening sale and opened the bidding at $42 million on the Van Gogh.

Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s Americas, who was on the phone with a client, wasted no time in making a soaring leap in the bidding by calling out $55 million. (At this price level, bids usually move in increments of $1–2 million.) Bidding lingered in the high $50 millions as Porter competed against specialist Rebecca Wei, president of Christie’s Asia. After several smaller leaps in bidding, Wei won the work for her client with a final hammer bid of $72 million. With premium, the final price was $81.3 million, the second-highest auction price on record for Van Gogh. (Final prices include the buyer’s premium; presale estimates do not.)

Though Wei successfully secured the prize lot of the evening for her client, the collector clearly wasn’t finished. At other points, Wei used the same paddle number for the phone buyer to secure an 1884 Renoir portrait for $8.2 million and a 1969–1970 Marc Chagall painting for $1.6 million. In all, her client dropped $91 million on three works in tonight’s sale.

The Van Gogh was one of a dozen lots from the collection of Texas collectors and philanthropists Nancy Lee and Perry Bass. These lots were collectively estimated to bring between $101.5 million and $146.7 million. All were sold for a total of $143 million, well near the high end of the estimate. (Because of tonight’s performance, the Bass collection has already exceeded expectations. Three more major works will be auctioned in Wednesday evening’s postwar and contemporary sale, and another 20 or so works from the collection will be included in Christie’s day sales this week.)

Van Gogh painted the work sold tonight in August 1889 during his institutionalization in St. Remy. The picture—of a plowman tilling a plot of land—was the view he saw through his window each morning. The work represented a significant development for the painter, who had not handled his brushes since being removed from his studio by the doctors at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole following a devastating breakdown.

Though the sale was marked by several bidding contests, the competition for the Van Gogh was by far the most spirited. Bidders set the tone by knowing what they wanted—and what they didn’t—and pursuing lots accordingly.



Painting, Oil on Canvas – 49 x 62 cm Size 12 Figure
Saint-Rémy, France: August 31, 1889
Private collection
F: 625, JH: 1768

Where Vincent Was:
Saint Remy

Start Discussion

Leave your email address and Vincent will write you with a painting and his thoughts...

(Don’t worry, Vincent is busy painting and doesn’t send more than one a week!)

You have Successfully Subscribed!