First Steps, after Millet, 1890
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890)
Oil on canvas; 28 1/2 x 35 7/8 in. (72.4 x 91.1 cm)
Gift of George N. and Helen M. Richard, 1964 (64.165.2)
In fall and winter 1889–90, while a voluntary patient at the asylum in Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh painted twenty-one copies after Millet, an artist he greatly admired. He considered his copies "translations" akin to a musician's interpretation of a composer's work. He let the black-and-white images—whether prints, reproductions, or, as here, a photograph that his brother, Theo, had sent—pose "as a subject," then he would "improvise color on it." For this work of January 1890, Van Gogh squared-up a photograph of Millet's First Steps and transferred it to the canvas.