Unbound by realism

In Arles, Van Gogh is far away from the artistic milieu in Paris. He embarks, once and for all, on a quest for his own style and is unbound by realism. Thus, the colours in this still life are not ‘after nature’. Touches of red and blue can be seen in the brown of the potatoes, and the bright yellow of the bowl casts a blue shadow on the white tablecloth.

‘Basket weaver style’

The table top is rendered with narrow, impasto and mainly horizontal brushstrokes. The background is a combination of broad vertical and horizontal strokes that are reminiscent of wickerwork and therefore also known as Van Gogh’s ‘basket weaver style’. The brushstrokes form an independent element in the composition; they are just as important as the image they represent.

Final test

The fact that Van Gogh now chooses potatoes as a subject can be seen as a final test for himself. It is as if he wants to practice his new ideas on a motif that he already gained a lot of experience with in the past, before venturing into more ambitious compositions.