It was during 1885, the year that he painted his Potato Eaters, that the art of Vincent van Gogh truly came to fruition. The lessons he had learned in art, both as an autodidact and later in classes, matured under the influence of the lessons he had learned in life, both in the city living with Sien, and later after over a year spent amongst the peasants of Neunen. In July that year, he wrote to his brother that, 'I have here before me some figures: a woman with a spade, seen from behind; another bending to glean the ears of corn; another seen from the front... I have been watching these figures here for more than a year and a half, especially their action, just to catch their character' (Van Gogh, The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, London, 1958, vol. II, no. 416, p. 396). Paysanne glanant, or certainly one of its sister-works, executed between July and August of that year, may have been the study to which he referred. Millet was the most famous artist to celebrate the life of the peasant in his art, and it was still considered scandalous. Van Gogh, though, held Millet in a position of great reverence - indeed, it was by tracing and copying prints and photographs of his work that Van Gogh had initially learned to draw. Paysanne glanant shows the older master's influence both in the subject matter, and the vigorous style of execution, which not only betrays, but flaunts the fact that this was no studio work, but was produced literally in the field, capturing as quickly as possible the labourer's movements: 'Nothing seems simpler than painting peasants, ragpickers and labourers of all kinds, but no subjects in painting are so difficult as these commonplace figures!' (Van Gogh, no. 418, loc.cit., vol. II, p. 400). The provenance of this work is intriguing. When Paysanne glanant was sold by Sotheby's in 1960, Van Gogh's nephew, the Engineer, was given as the provenance. However, The Van Gogh Museum have suggested this is unlikely and point to another fascinating provenance. In the 1997 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalogue The Private Collection of Edgar Degas, C. Ives, S. Stein, and J. Steiner deduced that the present work was in the personal collection of Edgar Degas (see C. Ives, S. Stein, and J. Steiner, op. cit, vol. II, p. 66). Certainly one of the drawings in this same group was auctioned in the Collection Edgar Degas sale at Galerie Georges Petit on 26/27 March 1918 as lot 245 (Glaneuse), where it was sold to Caron for FFr 1,380. Degas would most likely have purchased the drawing from Ambroise Vollard. Paysanne glanant has been in the same private collection for over fifty years and was last publicly exhibited in 1926.