Farmhouse in Provence Vincent van Gogh Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Farmhouse in Provence, an oil on canvas masterpiece, was completed in the late summer of 1888. The painting is significant as it dispels many of the myths about van Gogh's work. Admirers frequently believe he painted on the spur of the moment, impulsively recording scenes without any forward planning.

Yet Farmhouse in Provence was well-thought out and the techniques for colour, texture and composition were deliberately chosen. In his letters to his brother, Theo, van Gogh describes how he worked as fast as the harvesters themselves to paint Farmhouse in Provence along with six other views to form his planned study of wheatfields. On his arrival in Arles a few months earlier, he had also written enthusiastically to Theo of how the region inspired the promise of colour.


The bright colours of the painting were chosen in three distinctly contrasting pairs according to a favourite technique of the Impressionists to intensify colour brilliance. It was a method van Gogh learned through his admiration of artists such as Camille Pissarro. In Farmhouse in Provence, the deep gold of the wheatfield and the trio of haystacks is contrasted by the solid streak of purple on the distant horizon and the delicate touches in the wall surrounding the field. The green of the trees is paired with the bright red of the wild poppies and the roofs of the yellow farm buildings. The sky is a swirling mass of turquoise clouds contrasted by hints of pink.

Japanese Inspiration

Although much of van Gogh's early work involved monotone sepia tints as in The Potato Eaters, he had long been fascinated by colour. During his work in Neunen in 1881-2 van Gogh had seen at first hand how colour had been used to great effect by the local weavers. They followed the principles of Michel Eugène Chevreul's theory that shades from opposite sides of the colour spectrum were intensified when placed next to each other. In his letters to Theo, van Gogh seemed thrilled that Arles was like the 'Japan of the South'. It was as though his favourite Japanese woodcut prints, so full of vibrant colours, had come to life in the region. The composition of the painting is reminiscent of Japanese art where the foreground is largely deserted.


As an ardent admirer of Monticelli's still life paintings which featured thickly applied oils to create additional texture, van Gogh deliberately copied the technique in Farmhouse in Provence. The golden wheatfields are thickly layered to capture a sense of depth and movement. The painting is occasionally referred to as 'Entrance to a Farm with Haystacks'. Four months after van Gogh's death in July 1890, the painting was sold by his sister-in-law, Johanna. It is now displayed at the National Art Gallery in Washington, DC.