I’m standing in front of Vincent van Gogh’s A wheatfield, with cypresses, painted in 1889 when the artist was fresh out of the Saint Paul de Mausole asylum. He’d checked himself in May. He painted this in September, capturing the late summer colours of Provence in their full glory. Summer is defined by “the opposition of blues against an element of orange in the golden bronze of the wheat,” Van Gogh had written five years earlier.
Today it’s being hung on a wall at the NGV. It’s the centrepiece of Van Gogh and the Seasons, this year’s highly anticipated winter exhibition, launching next week. There’s a smattering of other work already on the walls. Some wheat sheafs in the summer. A view of Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer in the springtime.
Curator Sjraar van Heugten is in town from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to oversee the installation.
“If you read his letters, the seasons weren’t just a huge influence on his work, but also on his life,” says van Heugten. “The moving of the seasons reflected for him a higher force. Early in his life he was religious. Later he saw a higher force reflected in nature.”
From next weekend, Melburnians will get an extremely rare look at some of Van Gogh’s key works. It’s a special opportunity: the exhibition is exclusive to Melbourne partly because of the logistics of borrowing these paintings for longer than two months.
“The National Gallery in London will definitely receive complaints that this isn't on view,” says van Heugten. “It’s a very important part of their collection.”
Van Gogh and the Seasons opens on April 28. We’ll be back for a full report next week.