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Winter (The Vicarage Garden under Snow), Probably January 1885, Nuenen

Vincent van Gogh

Dutch, 1853-1890
Oil on canvas, mounted to panel
23 x 31-1/8 in. (58.4 x 79.1 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Raised in a parish priest’s family, Vincent van Gogh took an interest in peasants and laborers which alienated him from his middle-class community. Throughout his life, van Gogh turned to these local characters for his subject matter, depicting them at work in the fields as well as at their spinning wheels and looms, in arduous, protracted tasks. In fact, an X-ray of this picture reveals a composition of a woman seated before her spinning wheel. Whether a lack of resources or simple dissatisfaction spurred him to reuse the canvas, the artist ultimately painted a laborer tending to the garden of the vicarage where the van Goghs lived, in Nuenen. The worker appears to be clearing a path, and the barren trees, gray sky, and muddy snow present a general gloom that is broken only slightly by a few red leaves. In one of van Gogh’s hundreds of letters penned to his brother, Theo, the artist expresses his views on the parallels between peasant life and the bleak landscape: “The life and death of peasants remain forever the same, withering regularly, like the grass and flowers growing in that churchyard.”

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