The art works of the brilliant painter Vincent van Gogh are considered masterpieces. Van Gogh was a Dutch Post Impressionist painter who only painted the last ten years of his life. This man who produced genius works lived a tortured life during his artistic period, but the pains of life that tortured him were also the inspiration for the wonderful works that the world now has. He only lived thirty-seven years, but will be remembered for eternity for his work. Two painting in particular, The Sower and Femme Dans Un Jardin, are worth the time to analyze.
The juxtaposition of The Sower and Femme Dans Un Jardin are at first completely contrasted, but the more one views them, the more a comparison can be seen. The subject of The Sower is of a dark man is sowing seed in a plowed field. This man is not black, but instead is cast in a shadow even though there is a bright yellow sun in the sky and there is no shade from the tree.
However, the man is so dark that it appears that he has no features. He is carrying something that is shaped in the form of a seed bag, while with one hand, he appears to be reaching his hand as if he were sowing.
The shadows that encase the man are symbolic of a person who does not feel that he is an individual, but a form passing through life. He is bringing life into this world by introducing seed, but he is less important than the job that he performs.
By hiding the man’s identity in darkness, he could be any man. He is just another worker in the world. It also symbolizes the mental torture that Van Gogh suffered. It is still unknown what the mental disease was that inflicted the artist. There have been thousands of doctors who have studied the notes on his illness and they have come up with hundreds of diagnosis.
The fact is that no one really knows what afflicted him, just that he felt that he was worthless which would explain the darkness that engulfs the subject.. The subject of Femme Dans Un Jardin is a middle aged woman holding flowers that she has gathered. This woman is dressed in a white shirt, and her long skirt reflects the color pink. She also wears a wide brimmed yellow hat. These lighter colors and the fact that her face is discernable shows that here Van Gogh symbolizes the lighter side of life. There are no dark shadows to take away her identity.
Instead this woman represents a woman who is strong and an individual. She could be a wife, a mother, or an aunt, but one thing is for certain; she exist. Her hand is placed confidently on her hip as if she is sure of herself which is totally contradictory of the subject of The Sower. Femme Dans Un Jardin is representative of a time when Van Gogh was at peace in his mind. Van Gogh also shows the subject of the The Sower as being a part of the beginning process of life. When the subject sows his seeds into the plowed lifeless dirt of the field, life will spring forth.
It is not know what kind of seed he is sowing, but it really does not matter because any seed can bring forth life. The purpose of his planting could be for ground cover, beauty, of for life sustaining food. So the dark figure who has no identity of his own still has the ability to help create life as Van Gogh had the ability to create through his darkness. The female subject of Femme Dans Un Jardin has picked a bouquet of flowers from a lush green field. Her role is to be a part of the harvest. The flowers obviously started out as seeds or bulbs, but now they have reached the peak of their beauty and usefulness.
She is a part of the climax of the life cycle of the plants. The green grass, the flowers, and the green leafed trees are surrounding her with the fullness of life. In The Sower, the surroundings of the subject are sparse and bleak. The tree has few limbs and there are a few remaining dead leaves clinging to them. The sparse tree which occupies a prominent position in the painting is representational for a dead life, or a life that has no meaning. It is sad to think that Van Gogh felt this way about himself. He was a missionary and a minister in his younger days and made great sacrifices so that he could help others.
Then in his later years which would be considered the peak of life for most people, he gave the world some of the greatest art that it will ever know. Yet when he was in the midst of a mental state that was not normal, he felt as if he were a dead character in the play of life. The trees in the background are mere sticks jutting up out of the ground. The dirt gives a since of lifelessness to the picture. There is a streak of green that is an area of growth with vegetation. The added green does not seem like it belongs, but it is actually symbolic of hope.
In those days green was the color used in art visual arts and in literature to represent hope. The green is an important part of this painting yet if one is not a careful observer, he/she will miss it. It is there to show the world that when everything seems worthless, bleak and dead, there is hope of better things to come. The green does not have a prominent position in the painting yet it is where the theme or central idea is hidden. In a mental hospital, it seems as if there is no hope, yet in the case of Van Gogh, there is hope that there is something living in each of the occupants.
There is a talent that is hidden to those looking for the obvious, but is evident to the one who takes a closer look. The landscape of Femme Dans Un Jardin is completely different that The Sower. The lushness of the vegetation in the picture is strictly about the abundance of life. There is more than enough plants to represent life. Everything is close together because there is so much that it pushes it all together. There is also a dwelling in the midst of the trees so that there is evidence of home. One can only wonder about the family that lives in the house.
One of the few constants in Van Gogh’s life was his brother, Theo. He and his brother were close in life and buried beside each other. Like the strip of green in The Sower, it is easy to overlook. However, in each case these to things bring hope to the works. The home provides comfort, nurturing, and reinforcement. The woman who is the subject of the painting, perhaps is able to display her confidence through the support of those who live in the home. The color yellow also plays a significant role in Van Gogh’s works and The Sower and Femme Dans Un Jardin no exception.
The sun radiates a yellow overtone to all of the focal points of The Sower. Like a bright yellow light, it delivers a sickening appearance that overlays everything in the painting. The yellow is so stark that it makes the subject stand out so that that it adds to his isolation. This would have been the way that Van Gohg would have felt when he was battling his mental illness. He would have felt that a bright light would have shone on him to illuminate his illness and like the trees his soul would be bare. Femme Dans Un Jardin exemplifies how Van Gogh uses yellow to enhance rather than to bring about a negative feel.
The yellow color that Van Gogh gives to all of his paintings represents the newness or spring to the greens in the painting. No one actually knows why he had such a fascination for the color yellow. The best theories are the ones that he actually had a medical problem that made him subject to only see things in yellow or at least have a yellow ring around the objects that he viewed. If this is the case, he may have been opening up his soul and the way that he saw things to anyone who would view his paintings. There is no doubt that Van Gogh was a genius with a troubled mind.
His artistic work sheds light on the inner workings of the man who was fighting his demons the only way that he knew and that was through artistic expression. The paintings The Sower and Femme Dans Un Jardin are perfect examples of two different areas of his illness, that which was normal and when he felt tortured. The paintings are quite different yet they both serve the purpose of allowing the viewer inside the mind of a creative genius.
Van Gogh, V. (1887). Femme Dans Un Jardin. Van Gogh, V. (1888) The Sower.