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Van Gogh in the Borinage

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Jackie Wullschlager reviews Van Gogh in the Borinage: The Birth of an Artist at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Mons, on view through May 17, 2015.

Wullschlager writes: "Van Gogh called these forcefully expressive yet poignantly delicate paintings 'interpretations in colour'. The monumental twin figures in 'The Diggers' are silhouetted like cutouts, lit by a fierce sun scorching the hard ground; beyond them the sky is a tenderly nuanced passage of pinks and azure touched with white highlights. 'The Sower' is showcased here alongside Paul le Rat’s 1873 etching of Millet’s image. Van Gogh has squared up the etching like a graph, then in his painting transformed the subtle monochrome gradations into exquisite modulations of blue-grey, which seem to glow, back-lit by a pale sun, lending the gnarled, solitary figure marching across the canvas an air at once sombre and ecstatic."

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