Anton Mauve (1838 - 1888), c. 1885-1887
oil on canvas on panel,
43 cm x 32 cm
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
Near the end of his life, Mauve moved to the Dutch town of Laren, a centre of textile production. This woman is combing the flax fibres to disentangle them. Once all the fibres are running in the same direction, they can be used for spinning.
Mauve's great inspiration was the French painter Jean-François Millet, who also painted intimate portraits of farmers like this one. A book about Millet's work published in 1880 had made him even more widely known and admired.
The woman is depicted in a sketchy manner. Hendrik Willem Mesdag, who loved art with this sketchy style, bought the painting around 1893.