Laboureur dans un Champ (worker in a field),
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890),
Painted in Saint Rémy, France, early September 1889,
oil on canvas
© Christie's New York, 13 November 2017, sold for $81,312,500
Shoulder my yoke and learn from me
Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
Reflection on the painting
During 1889, Vincent Van Gogh was hospitalised and treated for mental health issues. This painting was done a few days after he was released from hospital, and we see a gentle Vincent here at work, rediscovering the colours, landscapes, and nature around him after his illness. Having begun this painting of a ploughman tilling the soil of a plot of land during the final days of August 1889, the artist completed it on 2 September, a few months before he died.
The brush strokes still show an anxiousness present in the artist, with angular lines, rather than free flowing ones. Especially poignant is the deep engagement Vincent shows with the soil and the turbulence it conveys. We often feel as though we have to plough our fields of doubt, brokenness, insecurities... but Jesus is making clear in our Gospel reading today that when we plough the fields of our souls, we should share our yoke with him and have him always right next to us.
This painting sold for $81 million in 2017 at Christie's New York.
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Readings related to Matthew 11:28-30
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