Girl in White

Girl in White
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Year 1890
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 66.7 cm × 45.8 cm (26.3 in × 18.0 in)
Location National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Girl in White (also known as Young Girl Standing Against a Background of Wheat and Woman in a Cornfield) was painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, during the last months of his life. Girl in White has been part of the Chester Dale Collection in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. since 1963.[1]


In May 1890, Van Gogh traveled from Saint-Rémy to Paris[2] where he had a three-day stay with his brother, Theo, Theo's wife Johanna and their new baby Vincent. Van Gogh found that unlike his past experiences in Paris, he was no longer used to the commotion of the city[3] and was too agitated to paint. His brother, Theo and artist Camille Pissarro developed a plan for Van Gogh to go to Auvers-sur-Oise with a letter of introduction for Dr. Paul Gachet,[2] a homeopathic physician and art patron who lived in Auvers.[1][4] Van Gogh had a room at the inn Auberge Ravoux in Auvers[3] and was under the care and supervision of Dr. Gachet[1] with whom he grew to have a close relationship, "something like another brother." Gachet and his daughter were both subjects for Van Gogh's paintings.[3]

For a time, Van Gogh seemed to improve. He began to paint at such a steady pace, there was barely space in his room for all the finished paintings.[2] From May until his death on July 29, Van Gogh made about 70 paintings, more than one a day, and many drawings.[1] Van Gogh painted buildings around the town of Auvers, such as The Church at Auvers, portraits, and the nearby fields.[3]

"But for all his appearance of a renewed well-being," observes Wallace,[2] "his life was very near its end." Illness struck Theo's baby, Vincent. Theo had both health and employment issues; he considered leaving his employer and starting his own business. Gachet, said to have his own eccentricities and neurosis, caused Van Gogh sufficient concern to question, "Now when one blind man leads another blind man, don't they both end up in the ditch?"[2][3]

After visiting Paris for a family conference, Van Gogh returned to Auvers more bleak. In a letter he wrote, "And the prospect grows darker, I see no future at all."[2]

The painting

Vincent van Gogh, Young Peasant Woman with Straw Hat Sitting in the Wheat, June 1890

Of the paintings Van Gogh completed in Auvers, there were two of the same woman. He describes her as "a peasant woman, big yellow hat with a knot of sky-blue ribbons."[1] The second painting may be Young Peasant Woman with Straw Hat Sitting in the Wheat.

Van Gogh uses the "picture plane" for dramatic effect. "How painters use the 'picture plane' is a telling measure," Harrison explains, "of the usually intended effects of their work and their disposition toward the spectator." Having the woman fill most of the pictorial space, she appears closer to the audience. Van Gogh further shadowed her face and gave her a "distant, unfocused" gaze. By also having the woman in close proximity, her emotional distance is "poignant".[5]

Comparison to literal likeness

John Liston Byam Shaw, 1900 Boer War

In Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century, the authors compare Van Gogh's Girl in White to the portrait of a woman in John Byam Shaw's 1900 Boer War. They make the comparison by identifying desired characteristics of modernistic art, such as works "emphasizing formal aspects, and as embodying what they took to be a 'primitive' or 'direct' vision such as Vincent van Gogh's Girl in White. To modernists, this is desirable over the "exhibited skill and sophistication of literal likeness," such as John Byam Shaw's 1900 Boer War. The more primitive and direct works, they say, provide a richer feeling, whereas the literal interpretation represents a lack of "emotional content".[6]



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Girl in White, 1890". The Collection. National Gallery of Art. 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wallace, R (1969). The World of Van Gogh (1853-1890). Alexandria, VA, USA: Time-Life Books. pp. 162–163.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Leeuw, R (1997) [1996]. The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. London and other locations: Penguin Group. pp. 488, 490, 491.
  4. Strieter, T (1999). Nineteenth-Century European Art: A Topical Dictionary. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 17. ISBN 0-313-29898-X.
  5. Harrison, Charles (2005). Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 14. ISBN 0-226-31797-8.
  6. Harrison, C; Frascina, F; Perry, G (1994) [1993]. Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century. Yale University Press with Open University. pp. 200–201. ISBN 0-300-05516-1.
  7. "Girl in White - Provenance". The Collection. National Gallery of Art. 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/20/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.