Piet Mondrian, Peasant Woman with Cow, 1898-’99, inked drawing, collection Association Museum Winterswijk.
This drawing fits very well into the collection of peasant scenes that Mondrian often drew and painted. Nevertheless, it is not a peasant woman from the Achterhoek region. The drawing is clearly a study of Julien Dupré’s painting Au Pâturage. Presumably, however, Pete knew this painting only from a black and white reproduction. Dupré’s painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882, and Piet was only 10 years old at the time. Even in the following years, Pete had no opportunity to admire the painting in the flesh. We know that it must be a black and white reproduction because the colors in Pete’s version differ from the original, especially those of the woman’s clothing. Aside from the color differences, the different style suggests that Mondrian may have even based his study on a study by another artist, rather than a reproduction of the original.
However, the different style could also be due to Mondrian’s own artistic shortcomings. As described in our article on The Writing Girl, model drawing was not Mondrian’s strong suit. The cow in this drawing is also not anatomically correct. The body appears to be elongated, as can be seen in the image. This could be the result of a lack of skill, but it could also be a conscious decision to imitate the dynamics and tension of the original painting. The farmer’s wife is trying with all her might to restrain the cow. However, the cow pulls as hard as it can in the opposite direction. By dragging the cow, it reinforces the woman’s movement and the tension in the scene.