Van Gogh – (Pulls, Harmony and Integration)

Vincent van Gogh - The Street Menders - 1889 - 71 x 93 cm - 28 x 37 in - oil on canvas

Van Gogh’s considerations for the viewer are absolutely superb.  He orchestrates your eye movement across the composition beautifully.

Lets begin with a question.  Why is the lower portion of the tree at the right a darker value the the rest of the tree?  The answer is Van Gogh has provided a pull for the focus.  In other words when you look at the primary figure you eye wants move to the dark trunk because it is in harmony with the figure.

The two dark figures are also pulls and provide a second pause in the harmony of the three dak values.

Another harmony is three red notes.  The window, the red beside the dark tree trunk and the worker’s hat.

I love how Van Gogh used doorways and the red window to integrate the figures.  Can you feel the vertical connections?

There is an integration which excited me which I hope you will appreciate.  There is a angled black line in the tree to the right of the two workers at the centre of the painting (see detail below)

The Street Menders - detail

The line is in harmony with the right side of the figure at the left.  This excites me because I can feel Van Gogh assessing the composition.  And I think this is a exceptional integration.

The title is interesting because the street workers are barely noticeable.  Why?  Because Van Gogh did not want information to disrupt his chosen harmony.

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