Van Gogh receives a commission from the retired goldsmith and amateur painter Antoon Hermans. He is asked to produce six scenes of peasant life as a decoration for his dining room. The ‘subjects’ he chooses are ‘Planting potatoes / Ox-plough / Wheat harvest / Sower / Shepherd (storm effect) / Wood gatherers (snow effect)’. The depictions represent not only the eternal cycle of tilling the land, the insignificance and transience of life, but also the seasons. Here, the ‘Planting potatoes’ represents spring.

Not a whole

A preliminary sketch reveals that Van Gogh intends to elaborate a scene with two figures. But Hermans wants him to include more figures in the composition and the artist agrees to do so. In the final version, seven figures perform various activities associated with planting potatoes. However, Van Gogh does not really manage to combine the figures into a whole.


Van Gogh and Hermans agree that the works will remain in Van Gogh’s possession. The goldsmith pays his expenses for models and paint and will use the examples to copy the scenes onto the walls himself. The extent to which he succeeded in this can no longer be ascertained, as the paintings disappeared from his house after his death.