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Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier), August 1888

Vincent van Gogh

Dutch, 1853-1890
Oil on canvas
25-1/4 x 21-1/2 in. (64.1 x 54.6 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

After living in Paris for two years with his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh decided to move to Arles, in the south of France. He went there to escape what he saw as the decadence of urban life in the French capital, to improve upon his health, and to return to a world less cluttered by corruption and selfishness. The move also facilitated his return to the painting of peasants, “an absolute continuation,” according to the artist, of the work he had accomplished in the small parish of Neunen in 1884–85. This portrait is one of several completed in the few years he lived in Arles, and it is one of two of Patience Escalier, an old gardener and former goatherd. Not dark like his earlier peasant portraits, this work instead presents a spectacular range of pulsating, prismatic color. Van Gogh employed the vibrant palette “as a means of arriving at the expression and the intensification of character”; this approach permanently liberated him from the use of color for purely representational reasons.

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