“Returning there, I set to work. The brush almost fell from my hands…I had no difficulty in expressing sadness and extreme solitude”.
Wheatfield with Crows is one of Van Gogh’s re-created memories of the north, and is believed to be the last work of Van Gogh. In early July of 1890, Van Gogh traveled to Paris, alone, to stay with Theo and his wife Jo. Theo was in poor health and was having financial problems, which was an enormous worry to Van Gogh who was keenly aware of the burden he was on his brother and his family. In addition, the baby was ill and Jo too was suffering from exhaustion. Van Gogh returned quickly to Auvers but rapidly became severely depressed. Writing of this picture shortly before his suicide, Van Gogh conveyed something of its tragic mood: “Returning there, I set to work. The brush almost fell from my hands…I had no difficulty in expressing sadness and extreme solitude”.
|Wheatfield with Crows|
Van Gogh used powerful color combinations in this painting: the blue sky contrasts with the yellow-orange wheat, while the red of the path is intensified by the green bands of grass.
And here in this pathetic disarray, we discover a powerful counteraction of the artist. In contrast to the turbulence of the brushwork, the whole space is of a primordial breadth and simplicity. The colors in their frequency have been matched inversely to the largeness and stability of their areas. The artist seems to count: one is the unique blue of the sky – unity, breadth, the ultimate resolution; two is the complimentary yellow of the divided, unstable masses of growing wheat; three is the red of the diverging roads that lead nowhere; four is the complementary green of the untrodden grass of these roads.
|Auvers-sur-Oise wheat field where Van Gogh made the painting|
As a man in distress counts and enumerates to hold on things securely or to fight a compulsion, Van Gogh in his extremity of anguish creates an arithmetical order to resist disintegration. He makes an intense effort to control, to organize. Elemental contrasts become the essential appearances; and in this simple order, the separated parts are united by echoes of color, without changing the larger forces of the whole. Two green clouds are reflections, however dimmed, of the green of the roads. And in the blue of the sky is a vague pulsation of dark and light that resumes the great unrest of the ground below.
Wheat Field with Crows remains as Vincent van Gogh’s most contentious painting. The many interpretations of the work are probably more varied than any other in Van Gogh’s oeuvre. Some see it as Van Gogh’s “suicide note” put to canvas, while others delve beyond a superficial overview of the subject matter and favor a more positive approach. And some more extreme critics cast their vision even further – beyond the canvas and the brushstrokes – in order to translate the images into an entirely new language of the subliminal. In an important letter that broke several months of silence, Van Gogh compared himself to a bird in a cage, and commented:
But then the time comes when migratory birds fly away. A fit of melancholy – he’s got everything he needs, say the children who look after him – but the sky is brooding and stormy, and deep within he is rebelling against his misfortune. ‘I am in a cage, I am in a cage, and I’ve got everything I need, fools! I’ve got everything I could possibly want! Ah, dear God, freedom – to be a bird like the other birds! A human idler of this variety is just like a bird that idles in the same way.”
|Graves of Van Gogh and Theo at Auvers-sur-Oise|
The artist shot himself in the very wheat fields he had painted over and over again, wounding himself in the stomach, which led to his death on July 29, 1890. Theo, Van Gogh’s brother who had stored the bulk of Vincent’s works in Paris, died six months later. The two brothers were later buried side-by-side in a cemetery overlooking those wheat fields in Auvers-sur-Oise.
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