Victor Alfred Paul Vignon
French, 1847 – 1909
Haystacks (Les Meules de Foin), n.d.
Oil on canvas
20 x 17 ½ inches
Saint Vincent Art & Heritage Collections
Gift of Michael and Aimee Rusinko Kakos
Victor Vignon studied under Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, a leader of France’s Barbizon school, whose practice of painting outdoors prefigured Impressionism. Beginning in 1869, Vignon learned to structure his landscapes according to Corot’s method, which emphasized the gradual shift between light and dark tones. In 1873, he became the pupil of Camille Pissarro in Pontoise, a rural suburb northwest of Paris. There, and in the nearby village of Auvers-sur-Oise, Vignon painted alongside Paul Cézanne, Armand Guillaumin, and Francisco Oller, developing a style that synthesized academic accuracy with the spontaneity popularized by his peers. A future friendship with Vincent van Gogh and van Gogh’s brother, Théo, was facilitated by a mutual friend, Dr. Paul Gachet, who, together with Théo, collected Vignon’s work.
Many of Vignon's works feature a high horizon line—a visual device that elevates the earthbound over the atmospheric effects of the sky. Foregrounded by passages of coarse, rose-colored earth beneath a grassy groundcover, Haystacks was likely executed within Val-d’Oise. Much like Pissarro and Monet, Vignon shared an affinity for haystacks, a motif that represented the efforts of working-class labor and whose conical form lends themselves to be depicted in nuanced shades of light and color. Together with a winding road that extends beyond our sight, these towers of sustenance for livestock doubly symbolize the presence of people otherwise absent within the scene. By 1889, with a heart condition and failing eyesight, Vignon’s health had begun to deteriorate. As a result, his production slowed in the waning years of the nineteenth century. While Vignon had his work included in four of the original eight Impressionist exhibitions mounted between 1874 and 1886, Vignon regrettably has not received the critical acclaim afforded his contemporaries.