GOGH, Vincent van
(b. 1853, Groot Zundert, d. 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)

Farmhouses

September 1883, Drenthe
Oil on canvas on pasteboard, 36 x 56 cm
Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam

Catalogue numbers: F 17, JH 395.

Van Gogh decided to become a professional artist in the summer of 1880; but it was not until the autumn of 1883 that he seriously took up oil painting. He had been experimenting with oil during his stay in The Hague, whose modern urban life he had tried to depict, but not to his satisfaction. In September 1883 he moved out of the city to the northern province of Drenthe, where he painted this study of moss-covered thatched farm buildings. The move to Drenthe marked Van Gogh's decision to take rural life and labour as the subject of his art. Both of these required a new style of work, facilitated by oil paint.

Van Gogh's initial investigations of landscape painting were awkward; small and tentative in scale, painted thickly in deep tones. Most of the paintings are, with few exceptions empty of the people who worked and shaped the landscape. Space is minimal and there is little sense of distance. The viewpoint is low and close, and the resultant paintings do not convey the spaciousness of the Drenthe landscape which Van Gogh so often described in his letters to his brother.