Vincent van Gogh
(Groot-Zundert, 1853-1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)
Sower with Setting Sun, 1888
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Signed lower right: Vincent
De la Faille 450
In The Sower at Sunset, Vincent van Gogh returned to a motif that he had tackled several times since his move to Arles, in the south of France, in 1888. In contrast to earlier versions, the composition of the painting in the Bührle Collection draws the eye firmly to the figure of the sower. His silhouette is balanced by an almost equally dark tree trunk on the right, cropped at the top and bottom of the picture. Both are seen directly against the light of the setting sun, which, vastly enlarged as it nears the horizon, glows like a halo behind the sower's bowed head. The level fields and the sky are saturated with colour, predominantly hues of green and violet. This work dates from a period when Paul Gauguin was staying in Arles at van Gogh's invitation, the two of them painting together. In this context it can be seen as a revealing response in which van Gogh disassociates himself from the work of his friend and rival. Gauguin's paintings from the days in Arles are characterised by an attempt to merge figures and their surroundings into one large common pattern. Van Gogh's Sower, in contrast, derives its power from the succinct juxtaposition of figure and landscape. He was so pleased with this work that he signed it, quite against his usual practice. The large Sower at Sunset occupies a special place in van Gogh's oeuvre. Its presence in the Bührle Collection is indicative of the high standards that Emil Bührle set himself. Painters who interested him were to be embedded in his collection with works that would be acknowledged as encapsulating the essence of their art.