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Vincent Van Gogh Paysage avec une Maison et un Laboureur
Paysage avec une Maison et un Laboureur (or, Landscape with a House and a Ploughman), painted by Vincent Van Gogh in October 1889 is a stunning, disembodied vision from the ailing artist, and a rather unique feature of his oeuvre. With it's idiosyncratic perspective, elevated line of sight, and having appeared to have been painted solely from the imagination, this unusual canvas appears rarely, if ever, to have been exhibited, and today sits in the collection of the Hermitage in Russia. Unlike many of his works painted during his self-committed incarceration in the Saint Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy following his clash with the painter Paul Gauguin that triggered his notorious ear-slicing, Paysage avec une Maison et un Laboureur does not appear to be much of a reflection of the artist's fraught inner world. Instead, this canvas can be seen as a rather joyous experiment in reproducing the Japonism style that so moved and motivated the artist. Having been forcibly opened up from centuries of isolation, Japanese artefacts began flooding Western Europe. Most notably the woodblock prints of Hiroshige and Hokusai made a seismic impression on the artistic outlook of France, triggering the aesthetic approach of late-nineteenth century modernism.
Paysage avec une Maison et un Laboureur is a dynamic, energetic canvas that seems to hover over and between the borders of the fields, as if the artist is floating up above the confines of his asylum. Beneath, the countryside features a number of the organisms that would come to populate the canvases of Van Gogh's final years; the cypresses, the ploughed lands, the straining anonymity of the labourer. It is painted with the colours of autumn – rich and verdant in the throws of decline. Indeed, much has been said about the psychological fragility of Van Gogh at this particular period, his bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and their direct impact on his work and his way of seeing the world. But in this chain of psychological cause and effect it is easy to lose sight of the artistic influences that formed the basis of his technique.
Paysage avec une Maison et un Laboureur is a tribute to the wood-block prints of Hiroshige whose entire visual philosophy was based on the strength and dynamism of the composition, and the serenity of inner travel. Indeed the majority of his landscapes from 1887 onwards are built around a repository system whose centre is found almost invariably in the work of Hiroshige.
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