Afternoon Siesta

This is one of my favorite paintings, Afternoon Siesta by Vincent Van Gogh.

siesta

The Musee d’Orsay website has this to say about it:

The siesta was painted while Van Gogh was interned in a mental asylum in Saint-Rémy de Provence. The composition is taken from a drawing by Millet forFour Moments in the Day. To justify his act, Vincent told his brother Theo: "I am using another language, that of colours, to translate the impressions of light and dark into black and white". Van Gogh often copied the works of Millet, whom he considered to be "a more modern painter than Manet". Remaining faithful to the original composition, even down to the still life details in the foreground, Van Gogh nevertheless imposes his own style upon this restful scene which, for Millet, symbolized rural France of the 1860’s. This highly personal retranscription is achieved primarily by means of a chromatic construction based on contrasting complementary colours: blue-violet, yellow-orange. Despite the peaceful nature of the subject, the picture radiates Van Gogh’s unique artistic intensity.

I like it for its portrayal of rest in the midst of hard work. There is always work, and it must be done, but there is always time for rest in the midst of work, and sometimes that kind of rest is the most delicious.

I used this painting as the cover of one of the two books I published, R.C. Sproul Jr’s Eternity in Our Hearts. Not long after it was printed I was manning a book table at a Vision Forum conference, talking to one of Doug Phillips’s personal assistants, and I asked him if he thought Vision Forum would want to carry the book—after all, Phillips had written the glowing introduction. I handed him a copy; he blanched, handed it back, and said he didn’t think so. I asked why, and he told me there was no way Doug Phillips would sell a book with a cover image by a modernist painter like Van Gogh.

Ah, well. Pastors are responsible for guarding their flocks, I suppose. But modernist or not, I think Van Gogh has captured a fundamental truth about creation here, and I appreciate his take on it.

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One thought on “Afternoon Siesta

  1. I love this painting and I love Van Gogh even though I’m not generally fond of modern styles of art. Do you know much about him? I didn’t, until my pastor mentioned him in a sermon a few years ago, sort of illustrating how the Lord uses our failures in ways we could never imagine.

    Early on he wanted to be a pastor and for a while he was a missionary in a very poor mining community, living like the people he worked with. He dressed rather shabbily because he tended to give away anything nice he had to those whose need was greater than his own. He was finally dismissed by the church because they felt he wasn’t dignified enough — that he was bringing shame to the ministry.

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