Lot 399
  • 399

Vincent van Gogh

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Prairie avec des vaches
  • oil on canvas
  • 31 by 44cm., 12¼ by 17¼in.


H. Tutein Nolthenius, Delft
Galerie d'Art Oldenzeel, Rotterdam
Teresa & Paul Crommelin (acquired circa 1946-47, probably from the above)
Private Collection (a gift from the above in 1991)
Thence by descent to the present owner


J.B. de la Faille, L'Œuvre de Vincent van Gogh, Catalogue raisonné, 1928, vol. I, no. 15, illustrated pl. IV
Jan Hulsker, The Complete van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Oxford, 1980, no. 387, illustrated p. 91

Catalogue Note

The present work is a testament to the immense influence of Millet and the Hague School at this stage of the artist’s career, not to mention Jacob van Ruisdael and earlier Dutch landscape artists. We are also offered a tantalising glimpse of his humble sensibility at this period in his recorded letter 499: ‘How rightly it was said of Millet: his peasants seem to be painted with the soil he sows’. Van Gogh was not merely painting the local terrain as a voyeur, but he was attempting to express a profound empathy with its people. A certain affinity can be found between this work, including its earthy palette and Realist subject, with the artist’s earliest recognised masterpiece, The Potato Eaters of 1885 (now at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

Landscape painting proved to be an important genre for his explorations of perspective and palette at this time, yet the artist is clearly beginning to develop his own unique style, even whilst limiting himself to the colours he found in the natural environs around him. Indeed the distinctive handling of the paint and subtle variances of colour are archetypal Van Gogh, and the flattening of the pictorial plane with a lattice of brushwork anticipates the advance of Modernism.

Painted towards the end of the summer of 1883, this oil dates to a period of economic hardship and domestic unrest for Van Gogh, who was then still living in The Hague. He was in the early stages of separating from Sien Hoornik, a pregnant washerwoman with whom he had been closely involved, despite the protests of his family. He would soon depart for his parents’ home in Nuenen, where he would seek solace in the countryside and re-evaluate his art. Many of his landscapes from this period are particularly dark in palette, perhaps further reflecting the anxiety he felt leading up to the break-up as well as the isolation he experienced immediately thereafter. Through this moody early work, the viewer thus bears witness to the complex machinations and emotional torment of this master painter in his formative years.