Joy of Museums Virtual Tours

Virtual Tours of Museums, Art Galleries, and Historic Sites

“Farmhouse in Provence” by Vincent van Gogh

"Farmhouse in Provence" by Vincent van Gogh

“Farmhouse in Provence” by Vincent van Gogh

“Farmhouse in Provence” by Vincent van Gogh depicts the entrance gate to a farm with haystacks beyond the gate and with the farmhouse in the background.

When Van Gogh arrived in Arles in February 1888, the landscape was covered with snow, but it was the sun that he enjoyed in Provence. And this painting captures the brilliant light that he sought.

Van Gogh simplified the forms and reduced the scene to the flat patterns he admired in Japanese woodblock prints. Arles, he said, was:

“the Japan of the South.”

Van Gogh used pairs of complementary or contrasting, colors which together intensified the brilliance and intensity of one another’s colors:

  • the orange of the farmhouse walls against the blue window and door
  • the red flowers against the green plants
  • the gold-green fields against the blue, lavender dividing walls
  • the pink clouds against the turquoise sky.

The complementary, contrasting colors brought an intensity to his work. Van Gogh mentioned the liveliness and interplay of the colors as:

“a wedding of two complementary colors, their mingling and opposition, the mysterious vibrations of two kindred souls.”

Van Gogh had become familiar with Michel Eugène Chevreul’s laws of weaving to maximize the intensity of colors through their contrast to adjacent colors.

He used this insight to add two colors of the same degree of vividness and brightness, placed next to one another, to produce an intense visual stimulation.

Van Gogh’s time in Arles was amazingly productive. In about 444 days, he produced more than 200 paintings, about 100 drawings, and wrote more than 200 letters.

To his brother, Theo, he wrote:

“Painting … promises to become more subtle—more like music and less like sculpture—and above all, it promises color.”

At the time that Van Gogh created this painting, he was 35 years old. Living in Arles, in southern France, he was producing some of his best work, such as fields, farmhouses, and people of the Arles, Nîmes, and Avignon area.

The area was quite different from what he’d known in the Netherlands and Paris. The climate was hot and dry, and the colors were vivid. The terrain was diverse and varied from plains to mountains.

Michel Eugène Chevreul

Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786 – 1889) was a French chemist whose work influenced several areas in science, medicine, and art. His theories of color provided the scientific basis for Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painting.

Chevreul stressed the importance of accurate portrayal of lighting in promoting realism but added:

“It is almost always so that accurate, yet exaggerated coloring is found more pleasing than absolute fidelity to the scene.”

Vincent van Gogh took this advice to heart, making lavish use of complementaries to intensify one another. Van Gogh wrote:

“This reciprocal heightening is what’s called the law of simultaneous contrast…If the complementary colors are taken at equal value, that is to say, at the same degree of brightness and light, their juxtaposition will raise both the one and the other to an intensity so violent that human eyes will scarcely be able to bear to look at it.”

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure.

He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life.

They were characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive, and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.

Farmhouse in Provence

  • Title:                      Farmhouse in Provence
  • Alternative:           Entrance Gate to a Farm with Haystacks
  • Artist:                    Vincent van Gogh
  • Year:                     1888
  • Medium:               Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:          Height: 46.1 cm (18.1 in); Width: 60.9 cm (23.9 in)
  • Museum:              National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Vincent van Gogh

Farmhouse in Provence, 1888, Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh Shadow

Retracing Van Gogh’s Footsteps in Provence

A Virtual Tour of the National Gallery of Art


“A wedding of two complementary colors, their mingling and opposition, the mysterious vibrations of two kindred souls.”
– Vincent van Gogh


Photo Credit: 1) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Paul Gauguin / Public domain

Popular this Week

Museums, Art Galleries & Historical Sites - Virtual Tours
Japanese Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Greek Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
"The Martyr of Solway" by John Everett Millais
Complaint Tablet To Ea-Nasir - World's Oldest Complaint Letter
Korean Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Indian Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Mexican Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Turkish Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Russian Proverbs and Quotes