Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 1889
oil on canvas,
73.2 cm x 92.7 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
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.'