Part Four – Exercise 4.0: Compare and Contrast

Look at the two paintings above and account for their similarities and differences in three columns – one for each artist – Millet and van Gogh – either side of a column for similarities. Indicate the differences by underlining the appropriate description in the outer columns.


Jean-François Millet (1814 – 1875) was a French painter and founder of the Barbizon School. The movement (name from a location near the Forest de Fontainebleau) was opposing pictoresque landscape painting as done by the Romantism and against landscape as a scene for allegories only. They embraces the landscape as such in a realist manner. Millet’s subject matters since 1850 were mostly peasant people and their life conditions. Because of this peasant portraits he was often regarded as a Socialist artist.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) a Dutch painter was since his decisions to become an artist in around 1880 inspired by the dutch artist of the Hague School, the French Barbizon School and portrait painters he admired as Millet as well as Delacroix. Van Gogh drew and painted peasants and rural life already at the beginning of his artist life (1884-85 in Nuenen, NL) and continued till the end. He copied often and repeated multiple times certain figures e.g. the sower after Millet. Van Gogh appropriated or rather copied Millet not only with this painting, but also with drawings and some other paintings. In the earlier painting The Sower, 1988, van Gogh depicted a different figure of a sower, whereas in the drawing The Sower, 1888 van Gogh placed Millet’s Sower (with some adjustments in gesture) in a different context

Stefan513593 - Part 3 - Exercise 4.0 - Compare and Contrast

Stefan513593 – Part 3 – Exercise 4.0 – Compare and Contrast


  • Compare and Contrast is rather a formalistic approach. It is good to go and back and force and to understand differences of something similar e.g The Sower. Van Gogh’s appropriation of Millet’s original can thus be seen in a different context.
  • The risk of a formal compare & contrast study is that one can forget a historical, cultural and artistic context. Therefore, I added one box for artist’s attitude.  Not comprehensive, but rather a note that there is more behind. Also important to know that Van Gogh learned drawing and painting rather autodidactic and through copying artworks he admired (if one would neglect his short time in life drawing in an academy in Antwerp in 1886)
  • I find the similarities at times rather more intriguing as opposite to some art theorists who want to distinguish themselves from previous ideas. Artists do live a life as a continuum, and not a disruptive life dictated by theorists. This was a notion I got when doing my comparison Modern and Postmodern Art and a fellow student commented on that.


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