Just beginning with the obvious, both Monet and van Gogh used the same medium, oil on canvas. Both Grainstack and The Sower were paintings of the outdoors around sunset, focusing on the way that the setting sun played with the colors of the environment. They are representational artworks, portraying natural objects in recognizable form, although Monet’s Grainstack is more naturalistic than van Gogh’s Sower. When Monet painted Grainstack, he was experimenting with perceptual color.
The idea of the Impressionist movement was to objectively record nature as it was seen by the painter, focusing on the effects of color and light. He painted Grainstack the way he saw it; not the actual color that we know it was, but the colors that the sunset made it appear. Van Gogh, at the beginning of the Post-Impressionist movement, was not merely trying to paint what he saw, but wanted to express emotion in the colors and lines.
He was initially drawn to the subject matter by the contrasting colors of the sky and the field, how the contrast of the violet shadows on the field and the yellow sun in the sky almost irritated the eye. Where Monet painted what he saw, van Gogh changed and softened the image so as to portray the emotion in the contrasting colors while still making the painting pleasing to the eye. This became a recurring theme for van Gogh, as can be seen in The Night Cafe, which he painted very soon after The Sower.
In both Grainstack and The Sower, the artists use a technique very similar to pointillism. They paint with visible brushstrokes, using colors that blend together to create the images that the artists wish us to see. However, where Monet uses smaller, thinner strokes to create a more streamlined image; van Gogh is more loose and free with his brush strokes, conveying emotion in the broad, expressive lines. This is another example of the transition from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism.
The way that Monet and van Gogh approached these two paintings are slightly different. The focal point of Grainstack is the actual haystack. Its lines lead you toward the center of the page, but the main focus is the haystack, sitting off to the side. This gives it a slightly unbalanced feel. In The Sower, van Gogh achieves an asymmetrical balance by countering the visual weight of the farmer on the right, with the path, the birds and the house, all leading the eye to the left and back into the contrasting colors of the environment.
While these two paintings may not seem very different at first glance, once you delve into them a little deeper, their differences almost outweigh their similarities. Painted right on the cusp of the transition from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism, these two paintings illustrate the slowly changing style of the period. Their color, line, and subject matter make Grainstack and The Sower perfect examples of the embodiment of their respective movements, and the subtle changes in style that were occurring.
Doyle, Marc; Art Movements Timeline; The Art Industri Group
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