The Siesta

Van Gogh

The Siesta by Vincent Van GoghIntercéréales

When they aren't making an appearance in explicitly religious paintings, ears of corn and loaves of bread often take on a secondary meaning of spiritual communion between beings in works of art. The old French word compaignon, or companion in English, literally meant "someone to share bread with."

But wheat and other cereals can also help artists on the hunt for another meaning, one aimed at reaching the essence of objects through artistic representation.

Van Gogh, who always resisted categorization, was among those painters who were exploring the craft and immersing themselves in color. He painted The Siesta while copying the masters of the craft like Millet and admiring the fields of wheat from his window of his room in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Working from a black-and-white newspaper print, he sought to convey it in his own language—the language of color.

Indeed, while the painting is a faithful interpretation of its subject, down to the details of the discarded shoes and sickles in the foreground, the dazzlingly bright color palette is a very clear sign of this Dutch genius's touch.

The painting gets its sense of balance from the chromatic contrast between the yellows and the blues, between softness and saturation.

Crosshatching is used to marvelous effect on the straw while the oppressive heat of the air is rendered palpable by the wavy brushstrokes.

As for the outlines of the human figures, they allude to the influence of Gauguin.

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