The Harvest, 1888

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 73 X 92 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 412

While in Arles, Van Gogh painted a number of series on various subjects. He had already carried out a sequence of blossoming orchards in the spring of 1888, and in June of that year he turned his attention to the harvest and wheatfields. In little more than a week he executed as many as ten paintings and five drawings on the theme. He worked daily in the fields under the burning sun, until a huge storm put an unexpected end to the harvest on June 20th.

More information about "The Harvest"

Depicting the Harvest

The vast landscape has been built up in horizontal planes; in the foreground lies the harvested wheat, while in the background the purple-blue mountains rise up into the turquoise air.

Van Gogh was not interested in simply painting a pretty, sun-drenched landscape, but in capturing the essence of country life. The various stages of the harvest are depicted in the central plane: there is a haystack, ladders, several carts and, to the right, a man with a pitchfork. Although they appear rather small, Van Gogh considered both the farmers and their labors to be an essential part of his picture.

Van Gogh himself gave the painting its title: La Moisson, the harvest. In his early work in Nuenen, too, the artist had sought to illustrate the various facets of peasant life (see The Potato Eaters).

Pride

Before Van Gogh began painting The Harvest, he made two detailed drawings of the subject. He then executed the picture on the spot, in one long sitting, reworking it a month later in his studio.

The artist was pleased with his work, and saw it as one of his very best paintings. “This […] canvas simply kills all the others stone dead,” he wrote to his brother Theo from Arles. In August, Van Gogh made two pen and ink drawings after the painting, one of which is now in the National Gallery.

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