Wheat Field with Cypresses by Van Gogh
Likely completed in a single “en plein air” sitting, Wheat Field with Cypresses is considered the most classic work among van Gogh’s legacy. Similar to his Starry Night, the piece was inspired by the view from his second floor window at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum at Saint-Rémy near Arles, France—the same splendid trees, only captured at daytime—so these masterpieces are sort of counterparts.
The artist was charmed by cypresses, as he felt that they reflected his emotions. He painted the canvas outside the asylum when he was allowed to take short walks. Because of his mental illness, van Gogh had to take breaks from painting in July and August, but resumed in the early fall, adding a few minor adjustments before its completion in September of 1889. He was so pleased with his masterpiece that he made a pen drawing and two other, almost identical, oil paintings (one is smaller) of the composition, working in his studio. Together they became the Wheat Field series.
In this landscape, the artist could equally render his perceptions of nature and the depth of his emotions. The thick white-blue-lilac sky, the thick yellow wheat field swinging in the wind, and the thick green leaves of olive trees and cypresses were reproduced with the impasto technique and the combination of the brilliant white, cobalt blue, chrome yellow, and viridian and emerald green—Van Gogh’s beloved paints.
Publicly, the canvas was exhibited in 1909. In 1993, it was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from a private owner for $57 million USD. Two other versions are held by the National Gallery in London and a private collection in the USA. The pen drawing is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.