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Van Gogh series "Wheatfield under Thunderclouds"
By Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
Wheatfield under Thunderclouds, 1890
In the spring of 1890, Vincent van Gogh was discharged from the asylum in Saint-Rémy where he had spent more than a year, and moved to the quiet village of Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris. In Auvers, Van Gogh painted a number of landscapes with wheatfields, which are among the bleakest works in his entire oeuvre. He wrote about these canvases in a letter to his brother Theo: ‘They are enormous sweeping wheatfields beneath stormy skies and I have intentionally tried to express sadness, extreme loneliness in them’.
The canvases are painted in an unusual, elongated format. The simple composition of Wheatfield under thunderclouds – a division into two horizontal planes – emphasises the boundless quality of the open fields. There is no tree, bird or figure to interrupt the horizontal character of the landscape. On the left are the vague shapes of a few haystacks. The flowering potato plants in the foreground are indicated with a few abstract dabs of paint. It is a single, endlessly rolling plain, made even more extensive by the low horizon and the correspondingly large expanse of sky.
Van Gogh claimed that these works also contained a positive meaning: ‘I am almost sure that in these canvases I have articulated what I cannot express in words, namely how healthy and heartening I find the countryside’. He intended to take these elongated canvases tot Paris in the near future, but this was not to be. Life weighed too heavily on him and on July 27 Vincent shot himself in the chest. He died two days later, with his brother Theo by his bedside.