The Harvesters

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 -1890)

Late June-July 1888

Oil on canvas

H. 73 cm ; W. 54 cm


This painting by Van Gogh is closely related to Provence,where the artist spent the last three years of his life. On arriving in Arles in February 1888,he was amazed by the light that made all the colours so intense. In this picture, the view from above, which places the horizon line very high up and reduces the sky to a thin band, enables the golden wheat field and sheaves, gleaming in the summer heat, to occupy almost the entire canvas. In the upper part of the painting, between the edge of the field and the bluish profile of the town of Arles, the long silhouette of a train can be seen puffing clouds of steam that echo the smoke from the factory chimneys, in the distance, on the left.


This tranquil incorporation of modernity and progress into rural occupations and landscapes reflects the attraction Impressionist painters felt for the power and poetry of the railways, in the 1870s. The juxtaposed strokes of paint carefully applied in a specific direction, the brilliant, expressive colours and thick, frenzied brushwork, which are all characteristic of Van Gogh’s late period, are governed here by a bedazzled, sun-drenched vision.


Purchased from Amédée Schuffenecker, after 1905, this painting was particularly treasured by the sculptor: “Van Gogh and Renoir are the two greatest painters of our time,” he confided to Canudo. “The former’s landscapes, the latter’s nudes, have been so glorified that one should learn a great deal from their art…” (Canudo, 1913).


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