Wheatfield with Cypresses, 1889
Sketching and painting offered Vincent solace and purpose while at the asylum. Remarkably, the artist created approximately 150 works during the year he spent there. Views from the hospital windows and walks around and beyond its grounds revealed a diverse landscape that fueled his desire not only to paint, but also to live. Ripppling wheat fields, olive orchards, cypress trees, rolling hills, and ever-changing skies offered the artist an opportunity to express nature’s profound effect upon him through sculptural shapes, swirling brushwork, and powerfully rhythmic lines.
Cypress trees, which the painter associated with Egyptian obelisks, were not only a staple of the Provençal countryside, but a symbol of eternity, often found near cemeteries in the South of France and elsewhere. For Van Gogh, these dark towering evergreens also offered a strong vertical anchor within his pictures and an element of contrasting color that played especially well against the golden fields and blue skies. He painted cypresses many times, always representing them as flame-like forms reaching towards the very edge of his canvases.