“A uvers is very beautiful, among other things a lot of old thatched roofs, which are getting rare…really it is profoundly beautiful, it is the real country, characteristic and picturesque,” writes Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother, Theo (reproduced in L. Jansen, H. Luijten & N. Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, vol. V, New York, 2009, p. 240).
For van Gogh, the French commune Auvers-sur-Oise was a welcome respite after a year spent in isolation at the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. While van Gogh initially came to Auvers to receive treatment from physician Dr. Paul Gachet, the town quickly charmed the artist.
Though just an hour north of Paris by train, rural Auvers seemed practically a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Rolling fields lush with wheat, vibrant wild poppies, hearty workers alive with exertion – this pastoral landscape became van Gogh’s muse in his final months of life. In just nine weeks, he produced over one hundred complete pieces, including the highly worked drawing Evening Landscape with Two Peasants.
The work is a masterful representation of how van Gogh’s graphic style evolved in Saint-Rémy and Auvers. As art historian Sjraar van Geugten notes:
Purity of line became the artist’s main concern, as a result of his experiments in Arles. More than ever before, van Gogh used his pen to create a rhythm of lines, forming patterns that lend coherence to the composition…To achieve this goal, the pen strokes need to stand out perfectly against the paper; indistinctness caused by other materials was undesirable…the emphasis on rhythm, the focusing of composition and a reduction in details make these drawings significantly more abstract than the more or less realistic works of 1888.
In Evening Landscape with Two Peasants, van Gogh captures two laborers working in a field. Above them, a white moon hangs suspended, signifying either early morning or dusk. Careful, purposeful lines infuse this scene with movement and life, transporting the viewer back in time to van Gogh’s Auvers.