Vincent van Gogh, ‘Wheatfield with a Reaper’, 1889, Kings Wood Art

Van Gogh painted this walled field from his hospital room. For the first few months that he was there, he was not allowed to leave the grounds.

The reaper labours in the heat of the sun. The wheat, painted with thick gobs of yellow, undulates around him. For Van Gogh, wheat was a symbol of the eternal cycle of nature and the transience of life. He saw the reaper as 'the image of death . . . in this sense that humanity would be the wheat being reaped.'
He added, however, that this death was 'almost smiling. It's all yellow except for a line of violet hills – a pale, blond yellow. I myself find that funny, that I saw it like that through the iron bars of a cell.'

About Vincent van Gogh

Primarily self-taught and unappreciated during his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh made over 900 paintings and 1,100 works on paper during the decade that he worked as an artist. Influenced by Jean-Francois Millet and the Barbizon School artists, van Gogh’s early work comprises dour portraits of Dutch peasants and depressing rural landscapes. In 1886-88 he moved to Paris, where Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism had a big impact on his painting. He brightened his palette, experimented with shorter brushstrokes, impasto, and complementary colors. The paintings he made in Paris announce the bolder Post-Impressionist style that he is best known for today. Emotionally unstable, humorless, and argumentative, van Gogh eventually had a breakdown and moved to an asylum in the south of France where he painted landscapes, portraits, interiors and still lifes steeped with personal symbolism.

Dutch, 1853-1890, Zundert, Netherlands, based in Arles, France, Saint-Rémy, France and Auvers-sur-Oise, France