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Haystack of Voulangis

Sugimoto, Henry [ bio ]

Haystack of Voulangis
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H: 21 in, W: 26.75 in

France, 1932


Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa, Japanese American National Museum


Stretched and framed.

Central image of three haystacks in a field to the left of dirt road curving up from bottom right. A man pushes a wheelbarrow at the curve of the road away from viewer under a large tree rising up on right. In the background, bluish trees and in the distance left two trees on a hill. The sky is overcast with hints of blue.

Signed in medium, bottom left corner: H. Sugimoto, 1932 Written on back, top center: Haystack of Voulangis

For many Impressionists at the turn of the century, the beautiful light and peaceful farming rituals of the French countryside provided a host of views for the newly fashionable practice of plein air painting. In this landscape from Voulangis, Sugimoto pays homage to the tradition in a composition that includes three of the famous French haystacks that so captivated Claude Monet in particular. In the painting, Sugimoto emphasizes the powerful effects of light on the landscape by way of the colors it produces: the vibrant greens of the fields and the many hues of the blue sky. However, while the Impressionists took interest in the ways in which the surface effects of light and color made objects seem less heavy, Sugimoto follows a different trajectory. He uses thick paint and closely related colors to accentuate the weight and movement of the haystacks, clouds, and other objects in the painting. This approach reflects Sugimoto's immersion in a contemporary Expressionist style that favored study of emotional effects of color on objects in the environment. The small figure pushing a wheelbarrow filled with hay on the lower right is similar to Sugimoto's other figures from his early period. Dwarfed by the natural landscape, the farmer, like the nuns in Sugimoto's "Two Nuns and Church" (1931), goes about his business in a routine manner. His rhythmic movement evokes a sense of comfort and stability that Sugimoto would return to in his depictions of farm labor and life in his rural hometown of Hanford, California.

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