“Wheat Field with Cypresses”
by Vincent van Gogh
“Wheat Field with Cypresses” at the MET is one of three similar 1889 paintings by Vincent van Gogh, as part of his wheat field series. All were created at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum at Saint-Rémy near Arles, France, where Van Gogh was voluntarily a patient. The works were inspired by the view from the window at the asylum. The painting depicts golden fields of ripe wheat, a dark green cypress towering like a green obelisk and lighter green olive trees, with hills and mountains that nearly merge with the white clouds and swirling blue sky.
The first painting in this series was painted a short time after Van Gogh completed The Starry Night, at a time when he was fascinated by the cypress. Van Gogh in a letter to his brother, Theo, described the painting:
“I have a canvas of cypresses with some ears of wheat, … the former painted with a thick impasto like the Monticelli’s, and the wheat field in the sun, which represents the extreme heat, very thick too.”
Van Gogh first made a reed-pen drawing of the work, now at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, he copied the composition in oils in his studio, two similar sized canvases and a smaller version. This one is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the National Gallery in London holds a similar version it is unlined and was never varnished or waxed. A private collection holds the third smaller version.
Comparing this day view with the night view of the sky and cypress tree in “The Starry Night,” we can see Van Gogh experimenting with a swirling sky during the day and at night time views. At night, the stars radiate in the swirling air and during the day the clouds are surrounded by the heat swirls. In both perspectives, the dark green cypress tree anchors the viewer to earth.
“The Starry Night”
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure. He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They were characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.
- The same swirling sky and cypress tree as “The Starry Night”?
Facts about Vincent van Gogh
- Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands
- Initially, van Gogh planned to be a pastor and worked as a lay preacher in Belgium. It was only on being let go from this job that he decided that his future lay in painting.
- Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old.
- Van Gogh never received any formal art training.
- Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, worked in an art gallery and introduced van Gogh to many artworks.
- Van Gogh visited many parts of Europe including Netherlands, France, Belgium and England.
- Japanese woodblock prints profoundly influenced Van Gogh. He collected pictures of Japanese woodblock prints, and he practised making copies.
- Van Gogh had several close relationships with many fellow artists, including Paul Gaugin and Emile Bernard.
- Van Gogh artistic career was only ten years.
- Van Gogh was a prolific letter writer, especially to his brother.
- He created over 900 paintings plus many more drawings and sketches.
- He died at the age of 37
- As a poor artist, van Gogh didn’t have money to pay for models, so he painted himself instead. He created hundreds of self-portraits.
- Van Gogh considered himself and many of his paintings to be failures.
- Van Gogh cut off his ear in 1888.
- Experts believe that that Gaugin cut off Van Gogh’s ear, following a violent dispute and that they both conspired to blame it on van Gogh so that Gaugin would not be jailed.
- Van Gogh wrapped up his removed ear and gave it to a prostitute in a nearby brothel.
- Van Gogh suffered mental health challenges for many years, and in 1889 he voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy.
- Van Gogh spent a year in the hospital, from which he created some of his most well-known paintings.
- Van Gogh spent his adult life in poverty, surviving on cheap food. His diet consisted mainly of bread and coffee; he drank alcohol excessively and always had his pipe in hand.
- After leaving the asylum, Van Gogh’s mental health continued to deteriorate, and in 1890, he shot himself in the chest. He died two days later.
- There is speculation that Van Gogh did not shoot himself but that he was shot in a prank that went wrong. Van Gogh protected the identity of who shot him, by claiming that he shot himself.
- Only 37 years old when he died, he had just sold one painting in his lifetime.
- On his deathbed, van Gogh’s last words to his brother were “the sadness will last forever”.
- Van Gogh’s brother died very soon after Van Gogh’s death.
Wheat Field with Cypresses
- Title: Wheat Field with Cypresses
- Artist: Vincent Willem van Gogh
- Created: 1889
- Material: oil on canvas
- Height: 73 cm (28.7 ″); Width: 93.4 cm (36.7 ″)
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Vincent van Gogh
- Name: Vincent Willem van Gogh
- Born: 1853 – Zundert, Netherlands
- Died: 1890 (aged 37) – Auvers-sur-Oise, France
- Resting place: Cimetière d’Auvers-sur-Oise, Auvers-sur-Oise, France
- Nationality: Dutch
- Movement: Post-Impressionism
- Notable works:
- Starry Night
- Starry Night Over the Rhône
- Self Portrait, dedicated to Paul Gauguin
- Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin
- White House at Night
- The Night Café
- Self-Portrait as a Painter
- Self Portrait with Felt Hat
- Green Wheat Field with Cypress
- Self-Portrait ‘Mutilated Ear
- “Wheat Field with Cypresses” by Vincent van Gogh (MET)
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“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.”
– Vincent van Gogh
Photo Credit: Vincent van Gogh [Public domain]