Today I simply wanted to highlight a work by Vincent Van Gogh: Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds. Now, if you know me then you know two things for certain: one, I love Van Gogh and two, I love art that has a deeper emotional story. Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds was one of a number of final works that Van Gogh created before he died.
This artwork is very interesting because it shows the two sides of Van Gogh. We know Van Gogh suffered from mental illness but we also know that he found happiness and life in painting nature. The painting is split into two planes. The top plane depicts a bright blue sky as darker blue thunderclouds roll in, while the bottom is a bright green field dotted with blooming flowers. Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo about this painting, amongst others he was working on at the time, saying that he “made a point of trying to express sadness, extreme loneliness” and yet he also immediately followed this by saying, “these canvases will tell you what I can’t say in words, what I consider healthy and fortifying about the countryside.” He found hope, purpose, and good health while he was out in nature and painting, and yet he was also struggling tremendously with the weight of his mental illness.
Out of all the works Van Gogh has painted, even actual self-portraits, I feel that this painting is one that says the most about him and describes him best. His colors are bright and the strokes are fast; it’s the iconic energy that Van Gogh exudes in his works. He’s raw and emotional about himself even in a depiction of the countryside. He put his whole self into this piece and showed just how much he saw life, and particularly his own life, in nature. Bright lively greens of the fields and the reds of the blooming flowers contrast the deep blue of the thunderclouds. The noticeable brush strokes begin to disappear where the sky meets the field and the blue is at its deepest. One could say it’s very similar to the fogginess and heaviness of mental illness and one’s thoughts. I think Van Gogh does this on purpose. The dashes of paint are so clear in the fields and at the top of the brighter sky as if that is where his head and thoughts are most clear. But, as the clouds roll in, just as his uncontrollable illness takes over, things begin to blend together and become unclear.
I really love this work. It seems so simple on the outside with just two split planes displaying the countryside and a stormy blue sky and yet it tells such a deeper story about Vincent Van Gogh.
Featured Image courtesy of Van Gogh Museum