Wheat Field with Crows by Vincent van Gogh
Wheat Field with Crows, painted in July 1890, is a turbulent and intense painting completed during the last period before his death.
Recent studies have shown, however, that a number of paintings postdate the work and, as the artist was seemingly in high spirits after his move to Auvers-sur-Oise, a suburb of Paris in May 1890, the painting is not an as simple reproduction of Van Gogh’s depressive state as is often claimed.
After a year spent in Provence honing his magisterial and elemental rendering of light upon natural surfaces, Van Gogh traveled to the Northern French village to be closer to the friends he had made in Paris during the years 1886-1888 and was overseen by a competent doctor of mental ailments, Dr. Paul Gachet. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent remarked upon the beauty of the small community, connected as it was to Paris, yet displaying the rustic charm that so inspired him in Provence. In spite of his love for the village, in late July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest in the middle of a field, succumbing to his injuries two days later.
Like many of his natural landscapes, Wheat Field With Crows in a complex and paradoxical piece. The winding lane cleaved in the wheat as the circle of crows is seen by many to be the path to death. Many, however, see the path as leading to growth, harvest, and productivity. What Van Gogh does capture in the loneliness of the farmworker, the solitary life of the individual gathering the harvest. The artist described the work as a reproduction of ‘ the health and restorative forces that I see in the country.’ Clearly, the painting is anything but a suicide note.
Van Gogh used a long, horizontal canvas to give a panoramic perspective, like in Wheat Field Under Clouded Sky. Although the two have a similar composition, Wheat Field With Crows is darker and portrays a more somber atmosphere. The yellow and ochre field takes up about two-thirds of the canvas and the roads that cut it are brown and green. The sky is overall dark blue, with some light areas. As the sky touches the edge of the canvas, it darkens into black paint, the same directions the black crows are headed.