Poppy Field, 1890 by Vincent Van Gogh

Poppy Field, 1890 by Vincent Van Gogh
Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org

The area surrounding Auvers afforded Van Gogh plenty of scenery for inspiration, and during his last months the artist painted numerous scenes of wheat fields and wide-open, windy countryside. The sky here has on oppressive weight, and seems to bear down on the vast expanse of land, while both the sky and the land have been painted with an undulating rhythm that suggests great movement. The picture has an uneasiness, which is compounded by peculiar perspective.

The poppy flower is common to many Van Gogh's Vase with Red Poppies. The composition and use of colour are highly reminiscent of those in The Poppy Field near Argenteuil by Monet. This painting is likely ingrained in the subconscious due to the popularity of the many Van Gogh poppy field paintings. Typically blooming in May and June, painting from what he saw in nature, Van Gogh poppies are were also late spring creations. Between the years 1886 and 1890, Vincent van Gogh completed seven different paintings featuring poppy flowers. Van Gogh did not have money to pay models, so still-life painting became more practical.

And now for what regards what I myself have been doing, I have lacked money for paying models else I had entirely given myself to figure painting. But I have made a series of colour studies in painting, simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and myosotys, white and rose roses, yellow chrysanthemums-seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet seeking les tons rompus et neutres to harmonize brutal extremes. Trying to render intense colour and not a grey harmony. Now alter these gymnastics I lately did two heads which I dare say are better in light and colour than those I did before.

The whole presents a turbulent image that is unsettling and unconvincing. The painting was done in the weeks prior to him taking his own life, and at a time when his world was falling in. He was extremely anxious about his brother Theo and his family, and had fallen out with Dr Gachet - he felt alone and ultimately unable to cope.