Vincent van Gogh made “The Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace” just after he completed “The Potato Eaters.” “Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace” and the “Potato Peeler” both represent women working in the Nuenen period, spring 1885. Even though one of the paintings is a self-portrait and the other one shows a peasant women cooking, both paintings show working humble women engrossed in their work.
Both paintings show his fascination with the working class, portrayed here in a crude style of thickly applied dark pigments. The “Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace” clearly has more number of colors in it than “The Potato Peeler” which just has shades of one color. The peasant woman cooking has a sad and lonely expression on her face whereas “The Potato Peeler” has a tilted face with no expression (straight face) even though she looks humble. The figures in both paintings are extremely large as compared to the canvas size. The scale of the figures changes the focus from the entire composition to just the ladies. In the “The Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace” the fireplace, kettle, pan and cup are small in size whereas the peasant woman is large. In the other painting, the potato and knife are the only two components other than the peasant woman. Hence the viewer concentrates more on the peasant women and less on their respective activities. The figures are very humble while at the same time very bold.
Keeping perspective in mind, “The Potato Peeler” seems to be a zoomed in version of “The Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace”: Their sitting posture is almost the same and have a similar attire. While the peasant woman working in the fireplace shows the woman with the background of the working space, the potato peeler concentrates on the expression of the woman more than her work. Vincent restricted himself to just a few colors and block painting while making “The Potato Peeler” whereas he added more color, finer strokes to the next painting. Upon closer examination ¬of “The Potato Peeler”, though, the woman has a scarf and a straw hat, the woman in the fireplace doesn’t. Vincent van Gogh used dark shades of oil paint on canvas to display his admiration for peasants in both the paintings. His study possessed the coarse, flat faces, low foreheads and thick lips, not sharp but full of peasants.
The paintings of “The Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace” and “The Potato Peeler” are of working women in which they are doing their respective activities i.e. cooking in the fireplace and peeling potatoes. In these paintings, Van Gogh deliberately chose coarse and simple models, so that they would be natural and unspoiled in his finished work: He wanted people to know that peasants, who eat their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with the hands they put in the dish, and it speaks that they have thus honestly earned their food. The paintings are a portrayal of the simplicities of life. Even though the paintings consist of working women they have different compositions.
Courtney from Study Moose
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