First Steps (After Millet) is a Post-Impressionist painting completed by Vincent Van Gogh in 1890. Van Gogh painted twenty-one copies of this work, as he greatly admired the artist Millet whose painting he was copying. He considered these works “translations,” similar to how a musician interprets a composer’s piece. In this painting, a man, woman, and child are depicted amidst clothes that hang on a fence and a spade lying across furrows in the soil.
During his earliest years as an artist, Van Gogh created earth-toned paintings of nature and peasants. However, he became increasingly inspired by Japanese prints and the works of impressionist artists in France. Van Gogh’s technical proficiency developed over the course of his artistic career, which lasted from 1880 to 1890. Initially, he used watercolors to add shading to his drawings, but eventually, he created graphic works using lithography and etching techniques.
It is worth noting that Van Gogh created First Steps (After Millet) during a significant moment in his personal life. His brother Theo and his wife Johanna had their first child, Vincent, in the same year that Van Gogh completed the painting. This work exhibits the painter’s exceptional skill in replicating the original drawing by Millet and demonstrates Van Gogh’s dedication to mastering his craft.