Reproductions of his work appear on posters, calendars, mouse pads, and other widespread consumer items. His influence was especially strong on the French Fauvists and German Expressionists immediately following his death. Even those works not immediately known today are quickly recognized by his unique style and approach, yet Van Gogh himself saw little of this success or popularity while he was alive. No publications can be found discussing his work while he was alive and only a few mentions of him, mostly negative, are found before 1910. However, paintings such as Wheatfield with Cypress reveal a great deal of the artist’s approach and emotion as well as the various ways in which he revolutionized the art world.
Wheatfield with Cypress is an example of Van Gogh’s work while he was a resident at Saint-Remy hospital for the mentally unstable. It is a member of a series of paintings in which Van Gogh explored an image or a theme. Whether it was this painting or another one of the series, he wrote to his brother Theo that the trees “are always occupying my thoughts, I should like to make something of them like the canvases of the sunflowers, because it astonishes me that they have not yet been done as I see them. The tree is as beautiful of line and proportion as an Egyptian obelisk. And the green has a quality of such distinction. It is a splash of black in a sunny landscape, but it is one of the most interesting black notes, and the most difficult to hit off exactly that I can imagine” (cited in Wallace, 1969: 144). His fascination with the trees themselves as well as their contribution to the landscape overall is evident within this painting.
The image depicts an initially confusing scene. The brightly lit landscape is covered by a swirling mass of clouds in a sky that seems eternally blue. The scene depicts a golden wheatfield not far from the hospital in which Van Gogh stayed in southern France.