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In the Open Fields

While Van Gogh devoted his first weeks in Auvers to painting the village's streets and houses, during the month of June he turned to a very different setting: the nearby wheat fields. His views of the open fields suggest the influence of Daubigny and of 17th century Dutch landscape painting. In contrast to these models, however, his new paintings of the landscape around Auvers use a very high horizon. This functions to focus our attention on the pictorial handling, which suggests the texture and movement of the ears of wheat. In the fields painted by Van Gogh in Auvers we no longer see the figures of sowers or harvesters found in his earlier rural compositions. The fields are now empty of human presence, houses or any other narrative element. While the picturesque prevailed in the artist's views of the village, now he expresses the sublime, which is associated with the idea of the infinite. In a letter of this time Van Gogh wrote: "I myself am quite absorbed in the inmense plain with wheatfields against the hills, boundless as a sea". The sublime is an aesthetic value close to the tragic: "They are vast fields of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not need to go out of my way to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness".
Field with Poppies, Auvers-sur-Oise

Vincent van Gogh
Field with Poppies, Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890
Oil on canvas. 73 x 91,5 cm.
Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag,
The Hague, The Netherlands
F 636 JH 2027
Wheat Field with Cornflowers

Vincent van Gogh
Wheat Field with Cornflowers, 1890
Oil on canvas. 60 x 81 cm.
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
F 808 JH 2118