Vincent van Gogh: L’homme est en mer (1889)

Vincent van Gogh, L’homme est en mer (1889), oil on canvas, 66 by 51cm., 26 by 20in., Image Source: Sotheby’s

“Painted at Saint-Rémy in October 1889, Van Gogh’s haunting depiction of a young mother, pining for her husband away at sea, is a brilliant example of the artist’s transformative vision of a time-honoured subject…

L’Homme est en mer is Van Gogh’s own interpretation of a work of the same title by his contemporary, the French painter Virginie Demont-Breton, which was exhibited at the Salon of 1889 and received great praise in the reviews. In October of that year, Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, describing the present work and his reinvention of the image: ‘I’ve copied that woman with a child sitting beside a hearth by Mrs Demont–Breton, almost all violet, I’m certainly going to continue copying, it will give me a collection of my own, and when it’s sufficiently large and complete, I’ll give the whole lot to a school’ (L. Jansen, H. Luijten & N. Bakker (eds.), op. cit., letter no. 810, p. 120)…

Based mainly on black and white reproductions sent to him by Theo, Van Gogh’s versions are more than mere copies, for he imbued them with his own sense of colour and form, as he informed his brother: ‘And then I improvise colour on it but, being me, not completely of course, but seeking memories of their paintings – but the memory, the vague consonance of colours that are in the same sentiment, if not right – that’s my own interpretation’ (ibid., letter no. 805, p. 101).”


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Vincent van Gogh at Christie’s

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Vincent van Gogh At Sunnyside

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. shoreacres says:

    I’ve always enjoyed Van Gogh’s correspondence as much as his painting, and this line resonated: “… the vague consonance of colours that are in the same sentiment…”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree – his letters reveal so much about him, and he was such an engaging writer! I just watched a documentary about Theo’s wife Johanna and her extraordinary actions to preserve the letters and promote Vincent’s art. If only we had all of Theo’s letters to Vincent, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita Bacha says:

    Beautiful ode to Vincent Van Gogh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He is in a league of his own! Thanks for visiting, Anita. 🙂❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anita Bacha says:

        Pleasure always to visit your blog and to take in your fabulous pictures and write, Sunny 💖

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a poignant interpretation of a grieving woman. Such a sad thing that Van Gogh never knew fame in his lifetime.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my gosh. What a fantastic little video. And, of course it made me cry too. Thanks for sending the link.

        Liked by 1 person

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