In 1889, Vincent Van Gogh went to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to be admitted into an asylum, as he suffered from psychological problems. After being discharged, he continued being depressed and looked for other artists for inspiration – studying the works of Rembrandt Van Rijn and Eugene Delacroix. He was also greatly inspired by the rural scenes of the Realist artists, Jean-François Millet, considering him more of a modern painter than Edouard Manet. Because of this, the artist decides to do his version of Millet’s Noon Rest from Work, as a sort of homage painting.
The painting entitled La Méridienne consists of a rural scene of two workers sleeping in the shade. He is faithful to the original composition of the picture, as well as the objects portrayed and the details in the background. Van Gogh speaks of this painting in a letter to his brother Leo and states he uses color to translate Millet’s painting differently, as well as using the contrasts of light and dark to cause the impression of this scene. He chooses to depict a typical, every-day theme from the fields and achieves a beautiful sense of calmness.
As a master of color, Vincent Van Gogh was able to flawlessly combine the complementary purples and blues of the central figures and the sky, with the golden yellows and oranges of the field in an exaggerated way. The couple is peacefully sleeping on a pile of hay, next to a pair of worn-out shoes and sickles. The figures have a dark contour that does not trace them completely, but only in certain areas to give depth. A horse and carriage are depicted in the background and are also resting in the shade, where the painter was able to incorporate a bit of red-brown.
The influence of Realism and its themes are evident in La Méridienne. The Realists aimed to show how life truly was for rural workers and the effects the modern times had on this society. Also living in a rural area, van Gogh could relate to this and made it show in this painting – an homage to Millet, an artist that he deeply considered.
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