Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
Analysis of “The Potato Eaters” by Vincent Van Gogh
In 1883, after leaving his wife Sien and his children Vincent Van Gogh headed to Nuenen. Coming off a disturbing part of his life, which included the break up with his ex-wife with several issues and suffering from gonorrhea, he was having a considerably difficult time. In Nuenen, Van Gogh started to devote himself to drawing, and started to gain attachment and sympathy for the peasant way of living. This attachment brought him to study closer the works of Jean-François Millet, an artist who Van Gogh praised for his paintings of peasant working. Van Gogh believed the subjects to be of great
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Van Gogh uses smooth lines in his painting, not too rough and straight, but more malleable in a sense, capturing movement and the spontaneity he wanted. On the background of the piece, where he sets some rafter boards, and windows, all drawn with soft gentle lines as well as the straight put picture frame and the large column holding the cottage up makes drags you even further and conveys accurate space. Van Gogh based many of his works on those of Jean-François Millet. Millet was said to be preoccupied with the “study of human types, importance of physiognomy” . Therefore, Van Gogh wanted to portray the peasants as ugly, brutish and gross, just as he saw them. He did not want to “sugar coat” them, instead wanted them to be seen for what they were. Some historical accounts mention that Van Gogh would search for the ‘ugliest’ of the peasants to model for him so that he would be able to get the harsh emotions of their reality. Another painter who is mentioned to be an influence in Van Gogh’s painting of “The Potato Eaters” is Jozef Israels and his painting “Peasant Family at Table”. Completed in 1882, it was three years earlier than Van Gogh’s painting and has some similarities in tones of color and the idea of the light shining from the table, even though it did not have the burning lantern.
I chose to analyze this painting because when I looked at it, i found myself looking for the storyline, almost