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Vincent van Gogh had a peculiar interest on peasants. He had a strong form of attachment and sympathy towards peasants.
His feelings for peasants were fueled in numerous ways and as a result, Van Gogh came up with a peasant character studies series, a whole collection of paintings that were aimed at arousing people's feelings peasants and the working class. To him, peasants were noble human beings who played a pivotal role in the development of modern art.
Vincent's description of this painting was "woman... seen from the front, her head almost on the ground, digging carrots", which explains a lot about the art piece which he did while at Nuenen, Netherlands in 1885. The painting includes an elderly woman in the foreground in a garden digging carrots while the middle ground is a garden that recedes into space where it meets the background, depicted by distant hills. He vividly captured the richness of nature by the juxtaposition of rich thick colours and it does well in bringing out the characters of the peasants. His intention was to express his feelings as an artist of peasant life.
To achieve this kind of visually stimulating piece of art, Van Gogh made use of a palette of drab earth colours, which he adapted from the vibrant and highly contrasting pigments from his radical paintings later in his life. He was able to achieve the desired effect in this painting by painting them roughness rather than infusing their conventional charm. This technique was surprisingly convincing considering the fact that they were seemingly flat, since the proportions in the painting are not quite accurate but are seemingly deliberate. The materials used were oil based paint on canvas plus a panel.
Influences and Inspirations
This painting among others in the peasant character studies was largely influenced by Jean-François Millet works. This artist was instrumental in making Van Gogh embrace Millet’s style of particularly making human parts have low foreheads, flat surfaces, coarse and feel sharp but not full. Most of his works were inspired by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, that was largely propelled by artists like Pissarro, Gauguin, Bernard and Monet and Peasant Woman Digging among other paintings are clearly as a result of the adoption of vibrant and brighter colours.
However, Van Gogh in his industrious but short career, he left many artists inspired in his wake. Millions of artists till date continue mimicking his impressive style of art. The most notable names in the history of art who were directly inspired and influenced by Van Gogh's techniques were Pollock, Bacon, Matisse and Derain whose works have clear artistic elements that were adopted from Van Gogh’s works.