The piece of art that I have selected to write about is, Wheat Field and Cypress Trees, by Vincent van Gogh. The oil painting was created in 1889 and currently resides at The National Gallery, in London.
I was drawn to this particular painting by the atmospheric qualities that are represented in the work. The painting, in my opinion, has a brooding quality to it. It looks as if a violent storm will erupt at any moment and ravage the landscape with the elements.
The painting also makes wonder what might lie beyond its borders. I imagine that, just off to the left, there would be a sloping, jagged cliff that descends into an angry sea. And, to the right, a field that extends as far as the eye can see into a distant mountain range.
From the little that I know about van Goghs life, like the painting, it always seemed to be on the verge of a new storm. This painting obviously reflected the emotions that van Gogh must have been experiencing.
Just as a writer must choose his or her words carefully to convey a feeling, an artist must choose its subjects with skill and position them in a way that engages the viewer to take in all of the elements, and at the same time, have a few surprises.
In this painting, van Gogh knew the importance of the cypress tree, but did not place it dead center, as that would have blocked the rest of the beautiful landscape and caused the eye to stop there. He wisely used the green of the cypress as the darkest value and repeated that same color sparingly, with a few linear strokes of his brush.
Van Gogh knew the importance of simplicity and let one cypress tree, with beautiful detail, be an expression of nature, rather than cluttering it with a grove of such trees.
In using color, van Gogh lets the colors flow from one part of the painting to another, all with subdued hues. He uses shading through his brush strokes to define and shape the trees, shrubs, and field of wheat. Even the distant mountains are defined only by a few, well-placed, peaks.
Although there are but a few quick strokes of vibrant red, they add just enough contrast to the yellow of the wheat field, to draw the eye to the foreground.
Though van Gogh uses many circular shapes, he varies the size and almost layers them, as we look upward from the rolling rock and shrubs in the foreground, over the field to the clumps of rounded shrubs, then to the rounded, aged, mountains beyond. Imagine the painting at this point without the cypress tree. It looses all significance. The shape of the cypress tree: tall, almost triangular, lifts us beyond the mountains, towards the wonderfully spectacular sky.
This painting contains some impressive texture techniques. Painting with broad strokes, van Gogh creates movement, depth, and vibrancy. The field of wheat looks ripe, and lush, giving the feeling of abundance. The sweeping movement of the wheat field invites us into the painting. By keeping the vibrancy of the brush strokes in the foreground, he keeps the focus on the wheat, trees, and shrubs and balances this with a more subtle background of light-blue mountains.
The texture of the sky lifts us beyond the mountains to the top of the painting. Van Gogh saved a quiet resting-place for our eyes just above the mountains, to let us fully enjoy the beauty of the sky.
Although the painting itself may be one of turbulence, the objects are arranged in orderly patterns. The center of the painting is peaceful and is almost a pathway to the mountains and sky beyond.
The light seems to come from a consistent source. It rounds out the objects, which adds to their depth. It does not focus on any particular object. The light doesnt indicate from which direction the storm is coming. Its as though the light is directly overhead and is not casting shadows to interfere with the composition.
In conclusion, what at first may appear to be a simple painting, is anything but. The artist, van Gogh, masterfully used the elements of color, texture, form, line, and value to evoke strong emotions in those who gaze upon this masterpiece.