Van Gogh’s Last Painting
Wheat Field with Crows, painted in July of 1890, is one of Van Gogh’s paintings of the fields surrounding Auvers-sur-Oise and is frequently believed to be his last painting. Wheat Field with Crows uses the double square canvases that Van Gogh used exclusively in the final weeks of his life. The painting is extremely dramatic, conveying intense feelings, and is one of his most haunting and elemental works. The dark cloudy sky filled with crows and the cut off path seem to ominously point to the artist’s coming end. Van Gogh did not mention this painting in his letters, so the exact date of completion is not clear, but many now agree that it was not his last painting.
During Van Gogh’s time in Auvers his productivity soared. Some 70 works are attributed to the artist during his brief stay from May 20, 1890 until his death on July 29, 1890. In his final weeks, Van Gogh painted a number of landscapes of the wheat fields. On July 10, 1890 Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo about two of them saying,
“They are vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness…. I'm fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.”
Charles-Francois Daubigny was one of the most well known painters of the School of Barbizon. He moved to Auvers around the year 1860 and had a house built. This house became a meeting place for many artists. Van Gogh greatly admired Daubigny and painted the large garden surrounding his home several times. In July of 1890, Van Gogh completed two paintings of Daubigny’s Garden; he mentioned these works as well as and one titled Thatched Sandstone Cottages in Chaponval in a letter to his brother on July 23rd. One of these paintings could be the final painting of Vincent van Gogh.
Some scholars believe Tree Roots and Trunks was Van Gogh’s final work. The book Van Gogh: New Findings offers this argument.
Van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits many of which are among the most recognized in the world. Van Gogh’s last self portrait was given to his mother as a birthday gift and is titled Self-portrait without beard, September, 1889.
No matter which painting was indeed his very last painting, all of the ones mentioned here were painted close enough to his death that they were influenced to some degree by the physical and emotional issues Van Gogh was experiencing at the time. We currently have no proof as to which of Van Gogh’s paintings was the last. Unless new evidence emerges, Van Gogh’s final painting will remain a mystery.