I first saw this painting at a Van Gogh exhibit in Brisbane, way back when. Yes, a Van Gogh Exhibit; I think it was called “his inspiration and his influence” or some such. I can’t remember and, unfortunately, the programme is in storage back in Australia. I had to get my mother to retrieve the book from one of the myriad of boxes that contain my books, and then search for this painting in the programme from the exhibit. Given how vague my memory is these days, you can imagine the telephone conversation we had.
Finally, Mum was able to locate the picture and give me the name of the artist, Jules Bastien Lepage, so I could do a search for the image at google. Once I was able to do this, I found a print for sale on ebay. I just had to get it, as I had always berated myself for not purchasing it at the exhibition, opting, instead, to purchase a series of four nocturnal prints of Van Gogh’s for my sister’s upcoming birthday.
The Potato Gatherers held me captive during that exhibit, much more so than the other works on display, including Van Gogh’s and even Kandinsky, for whom I have a sly passion. I remember it was on the back wall from the main entrance and it seemed to take up the whole of that wall. The picture was fascinating in its detail. I must have stood there for at least ten minutes – more than I had ever spent previously in my life gazing at any work – before being moved on by the growing crowds.
I went through the rest of the exhibit, but my mind kept turning back to this particular picture. Eventually, I could stand it no longer and returned to that wall. There was so much to see in that one gaping scene. After a few minutes, I sat on the floor of the gallery (there being little seating for the exhibition, the aim being quantity, not quality of visitors) to gaze longingly at it. I think I was there for about 20 minutes, as was my companion, who had also been taken by this particular painting.
The image, the paint strokes, the way the detail faded in the distance, as it does with eyesight. The colour was amazing, not lurid, not overt, but perfection (though this internet image doesn’t do it justice). I believe if I could see the painting in real life again, I would probably want to spend some more time with it, getting reacquainted.
So, why am I posting this now? Well, this image has been haunting me again. It always seems to be lingering in the background of my mind somewhere, coming to the fore every now and again, usually when I am looking at photographs or images on the net, or perusing gallery sites. Tonight I was searching for some interesting images to attach to my other blog, nothing was standing out and then the image of The Potato Gatherers popped up again. I thought I ought to write about this painting and my experience with it, if only to see what effect it would have on its presence in my mind. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.