Vincent van Gogh, “The Sower (After Millet)”, 1881, Pencil, Pen and Brush and Ink, Watercolor on Paper, Van Gough Museum, Amsterdam
“The Sower” was a subject that Vincent van Gogh keep coming back many times in his career. Peasant imagery was of great importance to Van Gogh, who began his career by copying prints of Millet, Corot and other members of the Barbizon School. Van Gogh was a particular admirer of French artist Jean-François Millet, recognizing him as a leading artist.
Although Van Gogh was born into a middle-class family, he came from the small town of Nuenen where agriculture and therefore hard labor was a prevalent industry. Van Gogh later worked in other areas of great poverty. He developed a strong sympathy and respect for the peasants that he saw, and was socialist in his opinions and outlook. Van Gogh’s depictions of peasants remained similar in concept to those of Millet, in that he gave his figures an eternalizing spirit that emphasized their long history rather than using his paintings to advocate change.