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Vincent van Gogh

Dutch, 1853–1890

La Maison de la Crau (The Old Mill), 1888

Oil on canvas
25 1/2 x 21 1/4 inches (64.8 x 54 cm)
Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear, 1966

In February 1888, Vincent van Gogh left the cold, gray winter of Paris and moved to the town of Arles, in southern France. The colors and light of the south had an inspirational effect, and van Gogh created more than two hundred paintings in fifteen months, including The Old Mill.

Van Gogh’s major importance comes from his use of color. He was one of the first artists to free color from a merely descriptive function; that is, objects did not have to be reproduced in their natural colors. Instead, he used them to express his feelings about the subject—The Old Mill represents his joy in the colors, beauty, light, and warmth of the south.

Van Gogh was often criticized for working too quickly. A closer look at The Old Mill, however, reveals the care with which the brushstrokes were applied. He used various types of strokes for different parts of the landscape: for example, short, directional ones for the foliage; long, vertical ones for the purple fence posts; and smooth, curved strokes for the sky. Van Gogh wrote that he thought about each painting at length in advance, thus could work fairly quickly when he finally began to paint. For this reason, he said, “When anyone says that such and such is done too quickly . . . they have looked at it too quickly.”

Related Lesson Plan

Seeing Feelings (For Grades 3–12)

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Activities for Families (PDF)


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