Vincent van Gogh - Peasant Woman Cutting Straw, after Millet 1889

Peasant Woman Cutting Straw, after Millet 1889
Peasant Woman Cutting Straw, after Millet
Oil on canvas 40.5 x 26.5 cm. Saint-Rémy: September, 1889
Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

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Woman Cutting Wheat Jean-Francois Millet
Woman Cutting Wheat
Jean-Francois Millet

Van Gogh made twenty-one paintings in Saint-Rémy that were "translations" of the work of Jean-François Millet. Van Gogh did not intend for his works to be literal copies of the originals. Speaking specifically of the works after Millet, he explained, "it's not copying pure and simple that one would be doing. It is rather translating into another language, the one of colors, the impressions of chiaroscuro and white and black."

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin to Emile Bernard. Arles, Thursday, 1 or Friday, 2 November 1888.
My dear old Bernard,
We’ve done a great deal of work these past few days, and in the meantime I’ve read Zola’s Le rêve, so I’ve hardly had time to write.
Gauguin interests me greatly as a man — greatly. For a long time it has seemed to me that in our filthy job as painters we have the greatest need of people with the hands and stomach of a labourer. More natural tastes — more amorous and benevolent temperaments — than the decadent and exhausted Parisian man-about-town.
Now here, without the slightest doubt, we’re in the presence of an unspoiled creature with the instincts of a wild beast. With Gauguin, blood and sex have the edge over ambition. But enough of that, you’ve seen him close at hand longer than I have, just wanted to tell you first impressions in a few words.
Next, I don’t think it will astonish you greatly if I tell you that our discussions are tending to deal with the terrific subject of an association of certain painters. Ought or may this association have a commercial character, yes or no? We haven’t reached any result yet, and haven’t so much as set foot on a new continent yet. Now I, who have a presentiment of a new world, who certainly believe in the possibility of a great renaissance of art. Who believe that this new art will have the tropics for its homeland.
It seems to me that we ourselves are serving only as intermediaries. And that it will only be a subsequent generation that will succeed in living in peace. Anyway, all that, our duties and our possibilities for action could become clearer to us only through actual experience.

I was a little surprised not yet to have received the studies that you promised in exchange for mine.
Now something that will interest you — we’ve made some excursions in the brothels, and it’s likely that we’ll eventually go there often to work. At the moment Gauguin has a canvas in progress of the same night café that I also painted, but with figures seen in the brothels. It promises to become a beautiful thing.
I’ve made two studies of falling leaves in an avenue of poplars, and a third study of the whole of this avenue, entirely yellow.
I declare I don’t understand why I don’t do figure studies, while theoretically it’s sometimes so difficult for me to imagine the painting of the future as anything other than a new series of powerful portraitists, simple and comprehensible to the whole of the general public. Anyway, perhaps I’ll soon get down to doing brothels.
I’ll leave a page for Gauguin, who will probably also write to you, and I shake your hand firmly in thought.
Ever yours,

Milliet the 2nd lieut. Zouaves has left for Africa, and would be very glad if you were to write to him one of these days.

[Continued by Paul Gauguin]

You will indeed do well to write him what your intentions are, so that he could take steps beforehand to prepare the way for you.
Mr Milliet, second lieutenant of Zouaves, Guelma, Africa.
Don’t listen to Vincent; as you know, he’s prone to admire and ditto to be indulgent. His idea about the future of a new generation in the tropics seems absolutely right to me as a painter, and I still intend going back there when I find the funds. A little bit of luck, who knows?
Vincent has done two studies of falling leaves in an avenue, which are in my room and which you would like very much. On very coarse, but very good sacking.
Send news of yourself and of all the pals.
Paul Gauguin