Modern and Contemporary Art
The Shepherdess (after Millet)
The Shepherdess is one of twenty paintings Van Gogh made during his voluntary hospitalization at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy. His freedom of movement was restricted, and thus his choice of painting subjects was limited. He found inspiration in the small collection of prints in his possession, including prints made according to Jean-François Millet's paintings of village life, among them the woodcut that was the direct source of the present painting.
The print's composition was a starting point. Van Gogh's personal signature was imprinted in terms of form and color: the brushwork, the fragmented and winding line, the use of paint as substance as well as pigment, and the way the blue, the yellows and other tones are juxtaposed—all create movement and tension, disrupting the stability and calm attained by the simplicity of forms in the original print.
Millet’s young, modest and introverted shepherdess, with her somewhat stereotyped countenance, becomes in Van Gogh’s painting an older figure with distinct facial features and a monumental presence.