Early Afternoonc. 1886 by
Monchablon, Jan 1854-1904
In this painting, Monchablon celebrates the agricultural abundance of the plains of the western Vosges region. It shows a windless, sunny day at harvest time, and as usual, the light itself is an important subject. Monchablon sets the horizon low, causing the pale blue sky to appear vast. He applies his paint so that his brushstrokes follow the rays of the sun that backlights the little clouds in the foreground.
Despite the low vantage point, which radically foreshortens the rolling landscape, Monchablon implies deep spatial recession. The fields, with their Persian-miniature detail, begin immediately, as if beneath the viewer's feet, the unroll toward the horizon, their distinctness and color fading rapidly. Yet even in the distance particulars can be seen - a strand of trees marking a road on the left and minuscule harvesters working in the field on the right. Tiny puffs of cloud indicate the dryness of the weather and intensify the effect of a limitless sky.
A remarkable feature of this landscape is the bold simplification of the composition. The painting is divided into two large rectangles, the lower one further subdivided by the natural swells of the hills and strips of the fields. Monchablon sweeps the eye back along a strip of clover, an ingenious adaptation of the plunging roads of certain Dutch paintings. The absence of a farming motif in the foreground, which speeds the visual rush to the horizon, is perhaps also Dutch-inspired. One can enter the painting quickly, take in the main lines at a glance and, then, in the absence of a compelling focal point, have the freedom to explore details that add spots of interest throughout.
Size (inches): 29 1/8 x 39 5/8
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Haggin Room