Speaking about van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses it is important to mention that it is not the only his panting depicting the symbolic cypresses, he has painted a series of them, but the artist himself considered this painting to be one of his best summer canvases and even draw it three times. The first composition was drawn in a reed-pen, two others- in oil variants. Nowadays these paintings are kept at the National Gallery in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and in private collection (Rosage). The painting Wheatfield with Cypresses is a natural landscape depicting cypress trees growing or the wheat field. The cloudy sky and the distant mountains create the background of the landscape. The post-impressionistic style of van Gogh determines the peculiarities of the painting’s composition.
It is important that all objects in the picture are drawn in such a circle wise manner that the eyes are guided to the main subject of it- the cypress trees. The horizon line in the picture is on the lower part of the canvas which is not common of impressionistic style but is also aimed to focus a person’s view on the trees. The yellow grass is depicted on the lower part of the painting and up to the left, where it finishes, one can see the small rounded bushes, which are subordinate elements. From there the glance falls on the mountains line which diagonally moves right to the strong vertical line of the cypress trees, which represent the main point of Wheatfield with Cypresses and are the darkest point; it emphasizes its importance among other objects depicted on the canvas. There are many wavelike shapes in the picture. For instance, many of Van Gogh’s works featured the flame, depicted objects as resembling it; the same can be seen here with the cypress on the front side. The whirling motive which also is reflected in the clouds is a symbol of summer heat. Though the eyes concentrate for a while on the circular clouds strokes, they still get back to the cypress trees afterwards.
As the back colors are usually avoided in the impressionist paintings, Van Gogh has chosen the middle tones for his Wheatfield with Cypresses; the only exception is the contrastive darkness of cypress trees, produced by mixing complementary colors. All the masterpiece is painted mostly in cool colors, only to draw the wheat field the warm yellow color is used. The dominate colors Van Gogh used to paint this piece are yellow, green, and blue with green. These colors used together with each other and with white when painting clouds make the painting complete and fulfills it with harmony though the palette is limited. The brighter tones used to depict the grass, the bushes and the cypresses create a contrast to the cool blue color used to paint the mountains; this device helps to push some objects on the distance and bring the other ones closer.
The conical shape of the cypresses with the rounded shape of the bush and the whirling shape of clouds as well as the contrast in colors used to paint the latter objects create an asymmetrical balance of the painting. The cypresses, which are set in the right part of the painting are higher than the bushes which are left, which shows the asymmetry once again. As it was mentioned above there is a strong tendency of the sequence in which the eyes follow the parts of the piece, therefore it is possible to state that the painting has a strong hierarchy, where the eyes are first guided from the grass to the bushes and along the sky and mountain line they finally come right to stop the glance on the cypresses. It is obvious that the parts of the image are not equal, and the main part is depicted in the darkest colors.
The rhythm of the painting can be followed in the sky area and on the grass area with the repetition of swirling strokes of yellow, white, blue colors.
As it was mentioned by many art critiques and also visible to any art amateur, the technique used by Van Gogh is impasto, therefore, the painting layer on the canvas is very thick, and the brush strokes are visible on it (Rosage). This technique gives to the painting the effect of move, and adds sensation, liveliness to it.
Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses was created in 1889 during his stay at the Saint-Rémy asylum, where the artist’s main subjects to draw were the garden and the nature he could see around the Arles (Van Gogh’s Landscape Paintings…). It is important to mention that it was a time of Post-Impressionism appearance in France, when almost all the characteristics of Impressionism were intensified. The main characteristics of van Gogh’s art, which confirm the influence of the post-impressionistic movement on van Gogh’s work is the technique used and intensifying the colors. Van Gogh has depicted the summer landscape so vividly that there are some ideas about connection of van Gogh’s art with Japanese culture and if being more precise- with animism, religious beliefs that nature elements like trees or grass or the like have spirits (National Treasures).
To my mind, the swirling brush strokes on the canvas and the symbolic cypresses are conveying the feelings of van Gogh and his state of mind. The same as all Vincent van Gogh’s paintings of landscape, this one is also following the Western Romantic tradition: the artist tries to picture God’s exposure in nature and tends to show his emotions and feelings. The same enjoyment and pleasure is felt by the one who examines the painting as the nature is extremely vivid and alive. The painting itself in such way is extended to some spiritual content. Each element is distinct and powerful. Moreover, this landscape is a good sample of post-impressionistic art depicting light and movement as crucial elements of human perception. The elements of wind and heat can not be drawn on the canvas, but Vincent van Gogh managed to show these elements using the impasto technique, the repetition of swirling strokes and the flame-like elements.